Fresh Air families greet NYC visitors

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Wed., Jul. 10, 2013
Olivia (left), 12, and brother Liam (right), 9, of Ellington, greet their Fresh Air sister, Diamond, 13, as she gets off the bus from New York City in Vernon on July 8. Photos by Steve Smith.
Olivia (left), 12, and brother Liam (right), 9, of Ellington, greet their Fresh Air sister, Diamond, 13, as she gets off the bus from New York City in Vernon on July 8. Photos by Steve Smith.

Several Fresh Air Families were reunited and some new bonds began to be forged, as a group of 39 children from New York City arrived at two Connecticut locations on July 8. Several families were waiting in Vernon at the second bus stop (the first was in Waterbury) for children staying for a week with local families.

Local Fresh Air coordinator Karen Michaud said there are slightly fewer families taking part this year, which may be due to the economy, but there are still many “veterans” who have participated in the past.

Linda Byam and her family have taken part for the past four years. “We have three boys, and I'm home, so we thought it might be a good opportunity for us, as well as a Fresh Air child,” Byam said, adding that from the start, Lamar was a good fit for them, especially since he is the same age as Matthew, the Byams' youngest son.

“They are both third children, and have a very similar personality,” she said. “He loves coming, and we love having him.” Lamar has also visited the Byams at times other than the Fresh Air visits.

Byam said the family doesn't do a lot of special day trips or events during Lamar's stays, but he's happy just playing basketball, picking blueberries and strawberries, and watching his Fresh Air brothers play sports.

The Kent family from Ellington greeted Diamond, 13, for the second year. “It's about giving back to the community and surrounding communities,” said Shannon Kent, mother of Olivia, 12, and Liam, 9. “I'm a firm believer in spreading love, and we just love Diamond. We got lucky with her.”

“I love them. They're great,” Diamond said of the Kents. “They take care of me so well, I feel like they are my family.” Diamond added that besides swimming, she attended a wedding last year, and won a raffle prize.

“It's very rewarding,” Byam said, “not only for them, but for our family.”

“His life is very different from ours,” Matthew said of Lamar. “There are a lot of activities that we do differently, like he didn't know how to play baseball, and I didn't know about a lot of things that he does in New York.”

Michaud said this group of children will be staying for one week. Another group will arrive in the area on July 29.

For more information, visit www.freshair.org.


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