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My Turn

August 17, 2009

My Turn: Fresh Air Fund opens doors to new worlds


Somewhat perplexed, he told her it was Saturday and he didn’t have to work that day. Shocked, she replied, “You live here?” Not having a steady male figure in her life, Chandara had assumed that he came over for dinner and left each night.

Then there was food. Chandara thought corn came from a can. She had never seen a corn stalk, let alone shucked an ear of corn. We changed that.

Those big fields now occupied by Cooperstown Dreams Park were once Ingalls Farm. She helped us pick thousands of strawberries there, but ate plenty of them just as fast as she could!

My daughter and Chandara hit it off quite well; they could entertain each other for hours. My two boys were less enthusiastic _ they had wanted another boy.

But my oldest son did mesmerize Chandara one afternoon while playing in the stream at Wilber Park. A brook trout was wading in the shallow waters and with his bare hand he tickled its underbelly and picked it right out of the water for her. She was very impressed.

In the end she was very sad to leave us, and we were equally sad to see her go. She left with a photo album full of memories, and our family learned about a place and lifestyle we had known nothing about.

Two years later, we gave a little boy a chance to experience life in Oneonta. Joseph stayed with us for the next four summers. He was a gentle child with a big heart.

His first week was a challenge, dealing with homesickness and fears that change brings. But he adjusted well over time and made many friends.

Having turned 13 and assumed more responsibilities at home, he has not been back in two years. We think of him often, and I am sure his outlook on life has changed for the better due to his time in our “friendly town,” the Fresh Air term for host locations.

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