Then and Now: Adventures That Last a Lifetime
Fresh Air summers are filled with excitement, joy and new experiences from watching sunsets together to learning to swim and exploring the outdoors. The Friendly Towns program brings volunteer host families and Fresh Air children together and while they celebrate their differences, they also learn the many things they have in common. For many NYC children the experience is life changing and Fresh Air alumni and host families share with us that they have learned that a summer really can last a lifetime!
The Sarkisian Family of Milford, MA and Tenzin from Brooklyn
Tenzin, from Brooklyn, visited the Sarkisian family in Massachusetts in 2011 when he was just eight years old. His seven summers with the Friendly Towns program were filled with exciting adventures such as camping, hiking, mountain climbing and even waterskiing!
“My parents live on a lake so we’d always go up there and visit them. When Tenzin was visiting us, he loved going there and would call my parents Grammy and Grampy,” said host mom Danielle.
When reflecting on her favorite memories with Tenzin, Danielle shares “it’s safe to say that every time he’s been here has been a great memory!”
For Danielle, Friendly Towns is about “giving a child an experience they are not going to have in the city, it’s a positive thing. We have so much fun, and we learn from each other.” She especially enjoys sharing her love for the outdoors with Tenzin.
Now a college student, Tenzin and his Fresh Air Family have faced the challenges of being apart during the pandemic, and they remain in touch virtually. Danielle explains that they stay in touch mostly through calls, texting, playing online games together and social media.
From his first visit to now, Tenzin and the Sarkisian’s have built a special bond, and consider each other family.
The Mahaney Family and Leta Fields
It was the 1980’s when Leta was first introduced to Friendly Towns. After moving to a new neighborhood in Queens, Leta’s mom was in search of a fun way for her seven-year-old daughter to enjoy the summer. That is when the Mahaney’s and the Friendly Towns program became a part of Leta’s life!
Every year from ages 7 to 13, Leta travelled upstate to spend the summer with her host family, the Maheney’s.
“They took me everywhere. They would just treat me like their kid. My host mom, Kathy, always did something special for Christmas and my birthday.”
Leta remembers fond memories with the Mahaney family. They had all kinds of fun experiences together, from going to Canada, seeing Niagara Falls and spending time with Grandma and Grandpa Allen!
“The Mahaney’s have a farm, they’re very well known in their town. They even have a road named after them,” Leta said. Her host father, who she now calls Dad, was a racecar driver. “That was a lot of fun. Every summer we would go to the races!”
When Leta got older, the Mahaney’s would come to visit her in New York City and they continue to stay in touch.
“Kathy and my mom talk all the time, and have checked in on each other during the pandemic” Leta says. She asks: “How did we get so lucky? For 30 years the Mahaney’s have been my family.” Leta and her Fresh Air family like to reminisce about her childhood visits and also know they will continue to make memories that last a lifetime.
Read more stories about how a summer can last a lifetime.