Denny McConnell plays father
Published: Thursday, June 12th, 2014
Denny McConnell has fathered four children in the last four years. Well, not literally, but very much so in theory, in heart and in action.
His children — all daughters — have come from Sweden, Denmark and Germany. They’ve wondered what sort of father Denny would make; what America would be like. And they have mourned leaving the families they were born into and, on the other end of their 10-month stay in Custer, they’ve mourned leaving their host family – Denny and his wife, Donna, in this case — just as much.
After attending a Super Bowl party in January 2009 at the home of friends from church, during which there were “at least a half dozen other host families and their exchange students present,” says Denny, he and Donna ran home to immediately fill out the online application to begin hosting their own students.
Education First Founda-tion, now known as Education First (EF) High School Exchange Year, has been bringing “close to 3,000 students here per year. These students pay between $10,000 and $13,000 for the chance to live in the United States for about 10 months,” Denny said. Interested host families review numerous online applications and get to choose the student they’d like to host; the students have little-to-no say in the process.
In the case of the four students Denny and Donna have played American parents to, they have lucked out, and not having any say in the matter was of no importance.
Their first “Swedish daughter,” Fanny (pronounced Faw-knee), hosted during the 2009-10 school year, still obviously holds a very special place in Denny’s heart. A picture of her graces a table in his office and he speaks of her as if she is a real daughter who has simply left home. He created a photo book of her stay here as a farewell gift to her and kept a copy for himself and his wife. It is funny, warm, emotional — something one would expect a father to create for his own daughter upon her graduation from high school or other momentous occasion.
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