A small army of volunteers and supporters of the upcoming Sussex County “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project received their marching orders during an Aug. 16 standing-room only pep rally in the Cape Henlopen High School gym.
The rally got off to a rousing start with cheerleaders chanting, drums blaring and pompoms thrusting in the air.
Coordinated by local builder Schell Brothers, the build is scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 22, when show host Ty Pennington wakes up a Sussex County family to tell them their lives are about to be changed.
Chris Schell, co-owner of the Rehoboth Beach company, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout. “I never expected this,” he said as he took the stage amid cheers.
He said when the company was considering committing to the show, ABC staff asked him if he could muster enough support and volunteers for the build. “They asked if the people would step up to make it happen. I told them they don’t know the people of Sussex County. They can absolutely make this happen,” he said.
More than $150,000 of the $200,000 financial goal has been raised, and all volunteer slots for the round-the-clock build are filled with more than 1,100 volunteers getting involved. The $1 million project will be built in 106 hours when it would normally take more than six months.
“The truth is this is not really Schell Brothers building this house; the entire community does. This is a community build,” Schell said.
He said everyone, including Schell staff, is eager to find out who has been selected for the build. He said he would be informed by mid-morning Monday, Aug. 22, and immediately post it on the company’s website.
The family will be sent away on a week’s vacation and return Saturday, Aug. 27, when Pennington shouts out the show’s moniker: “Move that bus.”
Schell said the process is also under way to set up an endowment to assist the family with costs of running their new home. Schell said this is the first time that a separate endowment for a family has been created.
Getting fired up for the build
Gov. Jack Markell attended the pep rally to show his support for the project. He said the project shows that Delaware is a small state with people who have big hearts. Cape Henlopen High School cheerleaders, the school’s drum corps, Sherman the Shorebird and Delaware Blue Hen mascots added to the night’s festivities.
Milan Vasic, executive producer for Lock and Key Productions, the company that films the show for ABC, introduced six key staff members who have been meeting with Schell staff over the past few weeks to schedule the build, discuss the design and prepare the logistics.
Vasic said this build will be the show’s 199th since it went on the air nine years ago. He said it was important for him to get to know the community prior to the start of the build. It’s also important for the community to understand what the show is all about.
“We are not just building a house, we are changing people’s lives,” he said.
He showed three emotional videos explaining how the show works and how lives have been changed. “We have brought something to TV that has not been there for a long, long time,” he said.
He said the show is one the entire family can watch together. “It’s more than a TV show; it has an uplifting, positive message,” he said.
Vasic said the show is all about heroes – those who step up to build the house, as well as those who receive the new homes. All of the families selected have been through trying times, he said.
“The metaphor is like an old-fashioned barn raising that takes a whole community to come together,” he said. “I can tell by this turnout tonight that we are in good hands.”
The show will eventually be translated into 58 languages and broadcast in 185 countries with as many as 1 billion viewers. “They will all see the heart and soul of this community,” he said.
Sponsors, tradesmen join the effort
So far, more than 100 local firms – including drywallers, electricians and plumbers – are on board to assist with the project. In addition, more than 30 area restaurants and stores will help provide food to a small army of more than 1,100 volunteers who will work around the clock to build a new house from start to finish.
Urgent needs, as posted on Schell’s website, include equipment operators; painters; cedar lumber; floor, wall and roof sheathing; a closet organizing company; drapery installers; lighting suppliers; metal fabricators; wallpaper hangers; illustrators; movers; and mechanical engineers. Other needs are listed at schellbrothers.com/extreme.
So far, major sponsors include Harvest Garden Pro, $50,000; Schell Brothers, $20,000; Dentsply, Beebe Medical Center, Pixstar Inc. and Schell Brothers Foundation, $10,000 each; Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, Atlantic Sands Hotel and Convention Center, Hertrich Family of Dealerships, All Saints’ Parish Thrift Shop, Bad Hair Day and Carl M. Freeman Foundation, $5,000 each; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware, Tidewater Mortgage Service Inc., WSFS, Bank of Delmarva, Delaware Eye Institute, Michael Butterworth, DDS, and Christine Fox, DDS, and Tunnell & Raysor, $2,500 each; Cape Gazette, Moms Club of Delaware, Seashore Striders, Coldwell Banker Resort Realty, Dos Locos and Irish Eyes Pub and Restaurant, $1,000 each. Schell said more sponsors would be added prior to next week.