The Meacham Sisters Welcome Grace from Brooklyn to Gorham, Maine
Thirteen-year-old Grace lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., but for one week in the summer, thanks to The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns program, Grace leaves the busy city to join the Meacham family for a week of new experiences and fun activities.
This summer was Grace’s second with the Meachams, and she fits right into the Meacham family dynamic with sisters Stephanie, Ashley and Michelle, who is just a few months older than Grace. Summer highlights included visiting a local petting zoo, going to a drive-in movie theater, meeting friends for an afternoon at the beach and enjoying time at home swimming in the family’s pool.
And in a tradition the girls began last year, they decorated T-shirts with fabric pens, drawing pictures and writing messages, then posing for a photo Cristy shared in The Fresh Air Fund’s Annual Friendly Towns Photo Contest.
“We feel really blessed that we got matched with Grace,” Cristy says. “She’s friendly, sweet, and always up for an adventure and trying something new.”
Cristy says it feels natural to schedule some of her family’s favorite summer activities for a week shared with a Fresh Air child. She first heard about the Friendly Towns program through another local family and thought “it sounded like a fun thing to do, and an easy thing to add another kid to the mix in my house.”
Cristy and her husband had taken their daughters to New York City for a few days, and the girls, who’d spent their whole lives in Maine, were struck by the city’s lack of lawns and treehouses — places to play, lakes to swim in.
“When we heard about The Fresh Air Fund, my daughters thought it would be a great way to share some of the outdoor activities they are used to with a child who doesn’t get to do things like that all the time,” Cristy said.
“It’s good for kids to be able to run around in the grass and swim and see the night stars. They get to experience new things they’ve never done before.” And beyond introducing kids to different outdoor environments, Cristy says, the Friendly Towns program lets children from NYC and the Friendly Towns host community both expand their perspectives.
“I think that’s important for all kids,” she says. “We all get caught up in our own world and we don’t always realize there are so many different things out there. It’s always good to meet people with different backgrounds than yourself.”
Cristy says she hopes Grace and her daughters can now relate more easily to people who didn’t grow up where they did. She hopes whole families can. Cristy, who has been involved with The Fresh Air Fund since 2015, now serves as Gorham’s Friendly Towns chairperson, a local volunteer leader who recruits more host families to participate in her town.
Cristy and her girls stay in touch with Grace throughout the year, sharing photos and messages on Instagram. During the holidays, they find little gifts to send. And they already can’t wait for Grace to return next summer.
“I hope Grace knows,” Cristy says, “she’ll always have a family in Maine that loves her.”
Give to The Fresh Air Fund today so more children, like Grace, can gain a new perspective and make new friends that become family.