October 19, 2020 Category: Stories

Then and Now: Summer Friendships 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 Van Horn family of Mifflintown, PA and Danaisha from the Bronx  

Danaisha met her Fresh Air sister, Lauren, during her first summer visiting the Van Horn family from Mifflintown, PA in 1995 when she was just 6-years-old. They loved playing sports, painting each other’s nails and visiting the local farm. Danaisha remembers being so amazed at all the animals at the farm –and seeing them up-close for the first time!

“Lauren liked gymnastics so every summer I would get to do gymnastics with her. We have a close bond. I never had a sister, so she was like my sister that I never had. We literally grew up together,” Danaisha says.  

Danaisha met her Fresh Air sister, Lauren, when she first started visiting Mifflintown, PA in 1995. 

Fast forward years later and Danaisha and Lauren continue to be great friends. Danaisha even attended Lauren’s wedding! “It was a very beautiful experience to see someone that you grew up with getting married, it’s a happy moment. I really am thankful to have found a second family,” Danaisha said.  

The White family from Dartmouth, MA and Alex from Manhattan 

18-year-old Alex from Manhattan started visiting the White family in Dartmouth, MA in 2008. Host parents, Donald and Jennifer first heard about the Friendly Towns program from a local volunteer host family who shared how much fun they’ve had with their Fresh Air child and what a great experience it was for their family. Donald and Jennifer knew that it would be a special opportunity for their children to have summer adventures with a new friend. 

Alex loves doing summer outdoor activities with his host brothers, like swimming, bike riding and kayaking but the White family’s favorite memory of each summer may be how they always celebrate Alex’s birthday each year!  

Alex, now 18, has been visiting the White family for more than a decade and remains close friends with his host brothers, Patrick and Collin.  

“We go to New Hampshire where we hike and just enjoys the outdoors. It expands Alex’s horizons as well as ours. We’ve seen that kids are kids no matter where they’re from. Throughout the years, we learned from him as much as he learned from us. We see him as our third son,” Donald said.

The Daly family of Windsor Locks, CT and Marlen of Brookly 

A decade ago, Marlen from Brooklyn got on a bus to visit the Daly family in Windsor Locks, CT, and at just eight-years-old, Marlen did not know what to expect. She was nervous yet excited. During Marlen’s summer visits, she experienced many outdoor adventures but also remembers how much fun it was to run through the grass barefoot and go swimming!

Marlen and her Fresh Air sister, Jenna, have a strong sisterly bond. Jenna can’t wait to meet Marlen at the bus stop each year and has a tradition of bringing colorful welcome signs. They love going on summer adventures together – whether it’s bike riding through trails or going to Six Flags which is a favorite annual tradition.

Eight-year-old Marlen with her summer sister, Jenna, during her earlier summer visits and most recent visit (summer 2019) with the Daly family. 

“Since day one Marlen just clicked with our family and she wanted to come back every year. She is so easy going and my family adores her… quite honestly it’s been great not just for Marlen but also for our family,” Host mom, Kimberly said.  

Learn more about The Friendly Towns Program and follow us on Instagram: @theFreshAirFund, Facebook: @FreshAirFund and Twitter: @FreshAirFund for more stories of how a summer can last a lifetime.