Volunteered For a Week...Touched For a Lifetime

There's No Place Like...SimplyHome. I am happy to report that our team has made it back safe and sound from their journey to Pennsylvania to work with the ABC show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As soon as they walked through the office door, the rest of the staff circled around them hungry for all of the details of their adventure. We sat down around the conference table and made them start at the beginning. The story they told was fascinating and one I thought worth sharing...

Through Our Crew's Eyes

Our five crew members, Chris Whitworth, Glenn Mertens, Ian Sanders, Jason Ray and Allen Ray, loaded up the equipment and headed for Pennsylvania June 16th, only 1 short week and 1 day after learning we would be helping with the show. It was a short turn around, but our guys seemed enthusiastic and ready for the challenge. It was amazing to watch them gather any and all of the pieces and parts they could possibly need to help Brian. Never once was there a mention of the sacrifices it would mean for them and their families. They were going to be missing out on Father's Day,  family beach trips, a weekend at the lake, and a grandson's 4th birthday party. But, this was an opportunity to help Brian Keefer, a young man who experienced a tragic accident that left him paralyzed. We knew our technology and problem solvers could help, and that is exactly what we set out to do.

Getting to Work

As soon as we arrived at the hotel in PA, we knew we had our work cut out for us. One of the hotel rooms turned into an inventory/staging room.  Along with the SimplyHome System, we installed customized technology that would greatly increase Brian's independence. (We are not able to disclose the exact details until the show airs in September.)

After the reveal, the Keefer family didn't have much time to get their things together and head off for a week long vacation in Colorado Springs. However, our crew was able to spend enough time with the family  to assess Brian's needs, as well as, the needs of his parents. After Brian's accident, Steve, Brian's father took early retirement and now spends almost every hour with Brian. When asked what they wanted for Brian, his brothers said, "If you could make him better, that would be pretty cool."  Their comment fueled us to do the best job possible.

What Were The Concerns We Addressed?

Our assessment with Brian and his family helped us to grasp the personal and family challenges. Imagine  someone by your side 24 hours a day attending to your every need.  Now imagine being Steve and caring for Brian every minute of every day.  Steve has been sleeping in the same room with Brian ever since the accident. Both Brian and his dad expressed hope that technology could create some independence for both of them. At this point, our number one consideration became creating new options and outcomes for both Brian and his dad.

We were able to implement many forms of  technology to help enable Brian to complete many activities of daily living on his own.  Along with the SimplyHome system, we installed customized technology that would greatly increase Brian's independence. We are not able to disclose the exact details yet because the show is hoping to keep it a surprise until it airs in September.

Wonder How They Surprise The Family?

Allen Ray explains: I have always wondered how they "surprised the family" and yet they were always coming out dressed and with microphones. First, there were several families as finalists in this region of PA. Many interviews are conducted. Here is how it worked for the Keefer family: They were interviewed quite a bit during a year's time. On the day of the reveal (Sunday AM) Extreme Makeover Home Edition was interviewing the family yet again. As they were being interviewed, they wore mics and had cameras, etc. Sometime in the late AM the bus quietly rolled into town and into their "very narrow" cul-de-sac. When Ty said, "GOOD MORNING Keefer family"... they were surprised, but prepared to speak on set.

The Inside Scoop

Another neat fact that plays into who is chosen for the show is the neighbors willingness to allow all of those people to be in their yards for a week. Because of limited space around the Keefer home, crews are in their actual yards, tearing up trees and grass. Fortunately, the show replaces all of that before leaving town. In fact, the Keefer neighbors were so on board, they brought volunteers breakfast and snacks every day, and even did our laundry!! Allen Ray said, "There just wasn't time to do laundry, and body spray can't compete with temperatures in the 90's!"

The Cast

Everyone always wonders what the cast members are "really" like when they are not on camera. They are a very talented and committed group. It was interesting to learn that the show actually has two different builds going on at the same time. This required them to have two cast crews, with the exception of Ty, who was going back and forth between the two. Talk about a busy man!!

One of the first nights we were there, we met with the cast members in their hotel to discuss our plans for technology. Along with host Ty Pennington, designers Jillian Harris, Tracy Hutson, Ed Sanders, and Paul DiMeo were there. Paul DiMeo (Pauley) is the person we interacted with the most. He is very genuine and caring but also a whole lot of fun. As the week progressed he spent a great deal of time learning what it is we do! In fact, one of our favorite Pauley quotes is, "Without SimplyHome we would have just built the Keefers a bigger house. The technology makes the story!"

In The Days to Come

After the excitement dies down, SimplyHome will continue to support Brian and his family. It is our responsibility to not only install the technology, but to also maintain its' functions as technology evolves and Brian's needs change. It was our honor to be able to take part in such an amazing project. The show really does change people's lives...and it's not always just the family that has been chosen. Our lives will forever be changed as well.

We can't wait to share the details of everything we put into the Keefer home! The show will air September 25th from 7-9pm. It is the two hour season premiere so don't miss it! We plan to have a big party for the showing and have also made it our goal to raise $5,000 for the Keefer family. We will take donations made straight to the Keefer fund. You can contact Kristen Suttles, Marketing Specialist, at 828-684-8441 for donation information.