April 11, 2024 Category: Fresh Air Fun Our Alums

Then and Now: Friendly Towns Forever

Vasaune, 18, first visited the Walsman family in Maplewood, New Jersey, in 2012. Over the summers, he has made many special memories with his host brothers, William, Riley and Murphy. He has also learned new skills – like swimming and diving! 

Vasaune first started visiting the Walsman family in New Jersey in 2012.

“I was probably in high school when I first saw an ad for The Fresh Air Fund. It was really moving,” shared host mom Danielle. “It was always in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do when I was older.” 

Years later, once Danielle started a family, she finally had the opportunity to volunteer as a host family with the Friendly Towns program. 

The boys loved spending time outdoors.

Trying New Things

A favorite experience every summer was finding a new food to try! “Every summer, Vasaune would try a new food,” shared Danielle. “One year it was asparagus, and one year it was an avocado. Those were exciting things for us to see for him.” 

Vasaune and the Walsman family enjoyed being on the lake.

Summers eventually turned into winter visits, and Vasaune started to visit more frequently. A favorite memory was when the Walsman family invited Vasaune to visit over the winter and enjoy all the snow in their backyard! 

“One of the highlights when I visited in the winter was when they would take me to go skiing on their family ski trip. I never skied before, so it was a lot of fun,” said Vasaune. 

During his summers with the Walsman’s, Vasaune learned how to swim and received his deep-water certification. 

“That was such an exciting day,” shared Danielle. “Our pool has a 10-meter dive and one day he went off it! He went from not swimming at all to going off the 10-meter dive since we’ve known him.” 

Another special moment for Vasaune was the tradition of the annual Fourth of July 5k Run. Vasaune always visited during the first week of July and participated in a community 5k, followed by a BBQ by the lake with fireworks. 

The Walsman family and Vasaune ran in the annual Fourth of July 5k.

“I didn’t really like the racing at first, but I started to get used to it,” shared Vasaune. “We had to wake up early and then run about three miles – it was exhausting, but fun!” Some summers, Vasaune even won the race for his age group! 

Family Connections

This past summer, the two families connected when the Walsman’s invited Vasaune and his mother, Cindy, for the weekend. Cindy was excited to see where her son had visited every summer growing up. It was particularly meaningful for Cindy as she participated in The Fresh Air Fund when she was a child! 

“Cindy and I have a really special bond” Danielle said. Which made it so special for her to visit with Vasaune this summer! 

Cindy (right), Vasaune’s mother, joined the Walsman family for a weekend visit this summer.

Summers spent with the Walsman family in Maplewood were an opportunity for Vasaune to try new things and create an expanded support network.  

“It got me out of my comfort zone. There were so many new activities, and I built a great relationship with the Walsman family,” shared Vasaune. 

Danielle shared that she looks forward to always being a resource for Vasaune and wants to be there to support him throughout both his academic and his personal journey. 

The boys had a lot of fun playing on the tire swing outside.

For the Walsman family, the Friendly Towns program was one of the most important experiences of their lives. 

“I say this all the time, volunteering as a host family is one of the most meaningful things our family has ever done.” said Danielle. 

Interested in learning more about volunteering as a host family or signing your child up to participate? Applications are open!