Welcoming a stranger into your house takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the Fresh Air Fund.
And in this second story of our week-long series, I introduce you to two New Jersey families who have opened their homes an dhearts to Carlos and Samaria.
“He’s our Carlito, I mean we love Carlos!” Jennifer Tamres smiled.
With big hearts and open arms, the Tamres family welcomes Carlos in their home every summer.
“I was really excited because my mom told me that we’re going to have another kid,” Jason Tamres said.
A decision they made three years ago.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for us to expand our circle, meet people from different areas,” David Tamres said.
It's a common theme for most Fresh Air Fund families.
“When the flyer first came home, and we decided to do it, I selfishly, honestly, did it for my own kids,” Leigh Wynn remembered.
“I was excited because it’d be nice to have someone else I can talk to,” Grace Wynn said.
But it became much more for the Wynns, who developed a lasting bond and are now sharing their fourth summer with Samaria.
“It’s always been easy with Samaria," Michael Wynn said. "She’s been so great to have.”
“She’s fun and friendly and all these things you'd want in a best friend or sister," Grace described.
Each host family goes through a thorough screening and interview process, then are matched with city kids.
“We talked to her over the phone a number of times before she came out, so we got to know her, we asked her what she wanted to do,” Leigh explained.
“It was starting to become more real," David remembered. "We now had a name to this person and we started anticipated Carlos coming.”
And there's nothing quite like seeing the kids when they step off the bus.
“It’s just such an overwhelmingly emotional moment,” Leigh said. "You want everything to run smoothly, you want your kids to have fun, her to have fun.”
“When Carlos comes back we’re excited for Carlos, we know who he is," Jennifer smiled.
“Year to year we’ve watched him grow," David said. "But he’s still the same kid."
Both Carlos and Samaria have blossomed since that first meeting.
“He was very quiet, and very shy," David remembered. “The quiet Carlos didn’t last long though,” Jennifer laughed.
"[Carlos] likes to dance, he’s funny, he wasn't like afraid to express himself," Hailey Tamres described.
“He’s a really energetic kid, he’s really outgoing and a lot of fun to be around,” Brandon added.
“She was shy at first then she got used to us,” Owen Wynn said of Samaria. “She was really fun and funny!"
“I know that she might come from something totally different but it doesn’t mean she’s different from us,” Grace said.
A new family, a new city, a new chapter. Samaria and Carlos courageously embrace the change.
“From day one with [Samaria] it was just a good fit," Leigh said.
"It makes everything more fun when she’s around,” Grace added.
”[Carlos] has become part of our family, we have a real special bond with him,” David explained.
“He’s like my younger brother I wish I had,” Jason said.
Everyone's ready to get this trip started, hopeful it will be the best one yet.
Be sure to watch the rest of our series throughout this week.
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi