What makes a person extraordinary? Is it the set of talents they possess? Is it the quality of the decisions they make? Is it their dedication to a vision? Or perhaps their tenacity in fighting against long odds and overcoming mountainous obstacles?
The York, PA area community had a brush with an extraordinary life last week, and it culminated yesterday in the "Big Reveal" of an Extreme Makeover - Home Edition house for local athlete Brian Keefer. Keefer, a gymnast, sustained spinal injuries in a gymnastics accident in 2008, and has been paralyzed from the chest down. He was selected to receive a home makeover, in which part of the design was to include a therapy pool and other rehabilitative facilities. Until now, Kiefer's family has been traveling a 140-mile round-trip to the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore for 6 hours of therapy a day for 2-3 weeks straight during his breaks from Lock Haven University.
The community pitches in
Local contractors and volunteers worked together to demolish the Keefer's old house and construct their new one. The York County Chamber of Commerce solicited donations of all sorts from local businesses, some of which included free massage services at the worksite for tired volunteers. York Wallcoverings donated wallpaper for the new home. Hydroworx Pools donated a $40,000 T-Series indoor pool to the makeover. The pool features an underwater treadmill and jets that will help Brian complete balance and resistance exercises. An underwater video camera will allow him to watch his movements.
T-shirts were sold to visitors at the makeover site to help to defray Brian's medical expenses. Other donations from local residents were substantial enough to enable the Keefers' mortgage to be paid off.
The lure of the famous
Of course part of the fun of Extreme Makeover Home Edition coming to town is the opportunity to spot Ty Pennington, host of the show, or one of the designers: Jillian Harris, Ed Sanders, Tracy Hutson and Paul DiMeo. Regular viewers of the show have their favorites; on Friday morning Ed Sanders was visible as the landscaping was added to the build. Preteen girls screamed "Ed! We want Ed!" along the viewer's line until they scored a wave from the designer.
This local episode will be the season premiere for EMHE in September, and it's certain that a lot of local folks will be tuning in. Part of the fun will be seeing whether they show up in a glimpse on TV, but it will be thrilling to see the local athlete - up close on screen - as he receives this tremendous gift.
See the action on reveal day
Inspiration by the extraordinary
Brian Keefer's story, his dedication to his sport and his determination in trying to regain the function of his body, is extraordinary. There are others who struggle with similar life events outside of the camera shots and beyond the limelight. Brian is not the only one. To some extent Brian's life is extraordinary to us because he is one of us.
Brian is not the only extraordinary person in this story. Hundreds of volunteers and donors, not to mention the individuals who nominated the Keefer family for the show, showed incredible generosity of time and resources so that Brian could have his big reveal and the benefits that will accrue to him after it, courtesy of his new, beautiful, and functional house. And of course ABC, EMHE and its sponsors created the window of opportunity that the Keefers could step through.
EMHE creates a good weekly cry for a lot of viewers. It's great to see people who have struggled, people who are brave and selfless and deserving, receive such a gift. This one story will be especially extraordinary for the people here.