They may not have been around for all the birthday cakes, first days of school or scraped knees, but in a way, Karen and Tom Dwyer of Latham are like a family to 11-year-old Khaalig Ford.
Every year, for the past five years, Ford has traveled with other children and teens over two hours by bus to greet his summer family as part of the Fresh Air Fund.
By definition, the Fresh Air Fund is a not-for-profit program that grants inner-city children the opportunity to breathe "fresh air" in a country/suburban community for two weeks during the summer. But by experience, the program means so much more for the children and families they stay with.
"This will be his fifth year staying with us," said Tom Dwyer. "This is really great, we look forward to it every year."
While the Fresh Air Fund has two programs, one that brings children to a camp outside of the city and one that brings them to host families, children can request to return to the same family year after year if they had an enjoyable time.
Holding up balloons and "welcome back" signs, the Dwyers eagerly waited on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 2, in the front yard of St. Francis DeSales Church, in Loudonville, for their young friend to get off the bus.
As he rubbed his eyes and made his way down the steep bus stairs, Ford was approached by the Dwyers, who beamed with large smiles and held out their arms.
"Hey, buddy!" said Karen Dwyer, hugging Ford, introducing him to family friends and a friend's small dog, Biscuit.
Later, Ford stood by a black suitcase filled with summer essentials wearing a green nametag with word "Latham" written on it so that program coordinators could ensure that he left with the correct family.