Tom Doherty’s connection to The Fresh Air Fund first began in the 1970s when his family welcomed a Fresh Air child into their home for the summer through the Fresh Air Fund. Doherty found the experience so rewarding that in 2009 he and his wife Kelly invited Khaliik to for the first summer.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
Khaliik, now 10, will be making his fourth visit to the Doherty home this August, and Kelly and her family could not be more excited.
“The experience is great for everybody,” Kelly said. “It has been a joy for Khaliik, but has also been uplifting for us and has taught us a lot.”
From taking him to baseball games, teaching him to ride a bike, and bringing him on adventures to amusement parks like Ride Playland and Lake Compounce, the Doherty’s have truly showed Khaliik the best of suburban summers.
And it is clear that Khaliik has appreciated their efforts.
He is always eager to start the day and to do some of his favorite activities, especially swimming and hiking, according to the Dohertys.
“He wakes up every morning with a smile on his face,” Kelly said. “He asks every morning ‘can I go outside?’ because he’s still so used to living in the city.”
Both of their sons, Connor and Jack, have truly enjoyed getting to know and spending time with Khaliik as well. Kelly explains that both Connor and Jack have been great with Khaliik, but that Connor’s closeness in age to Khaliik has helped them form a special relationship.
“Connor and Khaliik are both 10,” Kelly said, continuing to describe a friendship that sounds more like a bond between two brothers. They play outside together and bicker occasionally over the usual sibling topics during Khaliik’s visits and keep in touch over Xbox live together when they are apart during the year.
The bonds created by Khaliik’s visits to Redding extend beyond their short time together in the summer; Khaliik texts and calls the Doherty family from his cell phone throughout the year. Additionally, the Dohertys have managed to form a unique relationship with Khaliik’s family.
“I’m Facebook friends with his mom, so we talk through that,” Kelly said.
Kelly has only excellent things to say about her family’s experience with Khaliik, and describes it as inspiring and incredibly rewarding and uplifting for all. When asked about her favorite memory of their time with Khaliik, she says, with no hesitation, “watching him grow to be more and more comfortable here. In the beginning he was kind of quiet, but now he cracks jokes all the time. He’s really a part of the family.”
For more information, log on to The Fresh Air Fund's website.