Then and Now: Memories 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 Flood family from Fanwood, NJ and Taegan from the Bronx
Taegan first met the Flood family during her summer visit in 2015. Now 13-years-old, some of Taegan’s favorite activities with the Flood’s include swimming in a lake, going to outdoor movies and playing at the park.
Host mom Karen shares, “Hosting is an experience that my family will always remember. My kids look forward to it every year, and it’s a nice way to be a positive part of somebody’s life, and Taegan’s also really affected our lives for the better.”
Taegan and her Fresh Air sister, Julia, spend a lot of time together during her visits because they are close in age and have similar interests. They enjoy baking together and are especially proud of their apple pies!
“Every summer, the kids always pick up right where they left off; it’s a really nice relationship they have,” host mom, Karen says.
“Brandon is part of our family,” host mom, Andrea Kaminoff said. “He is my son and my children’s brother.”
Brandon first started visiting the Kaminoff family from New Hope, PA in 1997 at just six-years-old. Brandon spent four summers with the Kaminoff family where he became close friends with his Fresh Air brother, Julian. Each summer, they went on adventures from rock climbing to swimming to many hours spent playing basketball!
“We talked about everything,” Julian said. “Our conversations gave me another perspective of life outside of New Hope, which is a pretty homogeneous town.”
Years later, they continued to stay in touch and in 2018, Brandon got married at his Fresh Air home in New Hope, PA with Julian as a co-best man!
“The wedding was special because this is my childhood home,” Bennett said. “Andrea planned everything perfectly. Knowing there are people besides my family who care about me has given me a lot of strength and confidence.”
The Siirala-Reed family from Crystal Beach, ON and Blessing from the Bronx
The Siirala-Reed family from Ontario, Canada decided to participate in the Friendly Towns program because they knew it was a very unique opportunity for their children to create long-term connections.
Since Blessing’s first summer in 2014, the Siirala-Reed family have admired her courage to try so many new experiences. Each summer, Blessing has gained confidence – and swimming is just one example! At first, Blessing was understandably nervous around the pool and needed floaters but now, after a lot of practice, she is a really strong swimmer. One of her favorite things to do is spend time outside and swimming and jumping in the pool with her Fresh Air sister, Sabrina.
“I’ve seen Blessing challenge herself and each summer do things that she couldn’t do the year before,” Misha says. “It has been special watching her grow and seeing the kids enjoy reconnecting and realizing how they have each changed over the year.”
13-year-old Blessing during one of her first summer visits and most recent visit (summer 2019) with the Siirala-Reed family.
Blessing has many fond summer memories from creating glow in the dark paint to playing outside and harvesting berries from the garden for their breakfast. She has gained a new perspective, new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.