A Toast to the Remarkable Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Team

As ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show comes to an end I am reminded how much they have impacted families, loved ones, communities, volunteers and the viewing audience.  And what is so exciting is that they have made a positive, lifetime impact on millions of people.  I am proud to say that I am one of those millions!

An example of EMHE’s positive impact occurred just today in my neighborhood far from Kansas where I had volunteered last summer.  I just got off the phone with Helen who resides in Ottawa, Kansas.  Since meeting her on the EMHE build for the Hill Family she has been very busy to say the least!  She was on the Joplin, Missouri build in October, 2011 with her husband David where she helped Jose with catering for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team.  The Ottawa Herald has a great picture of her and David with Jose in front of the EMHE bus.  Also, she was involved in the Habitat for Humanity build in Joplin.  And she has been busy helping collect historical data for the city of Ottawa.  What is so amazing to me is that she just wanted to touch base and wish me all the best in the new year!  What an awesome way to start the weekend!  Thank you Helen for reminding me why Ottawa has such a special place in my heart!!

When I think of EMHE I think back to Saturday, August 6th, 2011.  I remember standing in 100 degree weather among thousands of volunteers behind the EMHE bus anxiously awaiting to welcome the Hill Family home.  There was an air of hope and  excitement.  The EMHE team cheered us on as we tried not to wilt under the hot sun.  Volunteers like Shelby with the Karl Smith Foundation handed out bottled water to keep people hydrated.  Even so some people just  couldn’t withstand the high temperatures.  Emergency personnel attended to those that succumbed to the immense heat.  Even though the heat was oppressive I will never forget how excited I was to be a part of something so tremendous!  I was determined to not let the thick, sticky heat stop me from watching the event unfold!  I will never forget the hush that fell over the crowd when we saw the Hill’s limo arrive.  Flags waved gently in the air.  The moment had finally come!  Sergeant Allen Hill along with Gina, Makale and Dreyson would soon cast eyes on their new home…a home that meets the needs of Allen and where they can live together no longer separated from the challenges of PTSD!

There was a moment when I was holding a glass heart pendant [the one you see at the top of my blog] that hung from a necklace that Kim made for me, and I said to Glenn Close, “Thank you Glenn.”  She turned, smiled and said, “Thank you” in return.  Just like the Karla Smith Foundation gets me regarding the mental illness of my loved one I knew then that Glenn Close gets me too!  On her website: Bring Change 2 Mind she lists what steps we all can take to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Now months later after helping with the Hill Family build I still find myself saying, “Thank you Glenn!  You and Jessie give us all hope!  Your strength encourages us to keep going, especially when times get rough.”

I was so excited that this build was different in that EMHE brought mental illness to the forefront.  There I was…next to my husband and thousands of people participating in an awareness event that I could have never imagined.  As we watched for the Hill’s limo my brother, who has PTSD, was on my mind as well as my daughter who has bipolar disorder.  Flying above the crowd were brilliant blue dragon flies.  They swooped down low amongst the crowd as if riding on the heat waves.  The moment seemed surreal…and the promise of mental illness awareness, support and erasing the stigma was alive and well!  I had renewed hope for my family and anyone coping with the challenges of mental health and well being.

After seven amazing days Bill and I drove home, but this time we drove home knowing that we had just met some incredible people, and made some awesome new friends!  Thank you EMHE!  Your impact has not gone unnoticed and will not end with the show!  Please join me in toasting Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  Here’s to you EMHE!