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City kids and host families reflect on Fresh Air Fund trips and start countdown to next summer [Story 5]

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“Dear Samaria, I’m sad to say that you are now gone,” Samaria read.

A handwritten letter from the Wynn family, Samaria holds near and dear to her heart.

“How were you feeling when you got that?" I asked. "I kind of cried on the bus,” she replied.

She found it in her lunch on the way back from her Fresh Air Fund trip.

Related: Two NYC kids prepare for Fresh Air Fund summer trip of a lifetime [Story 1]

“What’s it like to be back home?" I asked. "It’s bittersweet,” she said.

“It was really, really sad,” Carlos added.

It's been a couple weeks since Carlos and Samaria said their goodbyes.

“We get emotional, we don’t want her to leave,” Grace Wynn said.

“I don’t how to describe how someone who’s only with you for a week becomes part of your family,” Jennifer Tamres said.

Related: NJ families welcome NYC kids into their homes and hearts during the summer [Story 2]

They're in touch year-round though, making the send offs a little easier.

“I’m able to text her, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, I’m able to do that stuff with her,” Grace explained.

“We’ve gone into Brooklyn and picked her up and brought her back for a weekend," Leigh Wynn said. "So we've had her here outside of the organized visits."

Even when they're not together, lessons learned from each other stay with them.

“To enjoy everything I have,” Hailey Tamres said.

“How to never give up,” Jason Tamres added.

“To be more comfortable with other people,” Brandon said.

“You can’t make everything so difficult," Grace said. "Like you need to be really easy.”

“I’m so not like that so to learn from a child to just be like okay,” Leigh laughed.

Related: Outdoor activities give two NYC kids a real Fresh Air Fund experience [Story 3]

"How has this experience changed you?" I asked Samaria. "It gets me to be more patient and more outgoing, but most of all we learn how to share.”

Carlos and Samaria have the option to return every year until they're 18.

The Tamres and Wynn families can also choose whether to invite them back.

“I don’t know what I would do if she didn’t come,” Grace said about Samaria.

“I see this relationship continuing," Michael Wynn added. "I see us being a part of her life.”

“I can’t imagine ever doing this without Carlos," David Tamres said. "We have a bond with him now that transcends the program itself.”

“Do you wanna go back next summer?" I asked Samaria.  "Yes!”

“Definitely," Carlos smiled. "I [just] love going there.”

Which is why they all want more kids and families to get involved.

“We set out to do something nice for somebody else and instead we got a great gift in return”, David said.

“It’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life,” Hailey smiled.

Web extra: More information and FAQs about the Fresh Air Fund

“They’re like a real family to me,” Samaria said about the Wynns.

Carlos added, “I would like to say thanks for everything that they’ve done for me.”

A sentiment etched in each of their hearts, forever.


Related: Brooklyn siblings return to Fresh Air Fund summer camp as counselors after positive childhood memories [Story 4]

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi