A family I know ends up on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
I guess the proper way to begin this story is with my buddy Zeb Llanes...
...That's him. Zeb and his family have been attending my church for the past several years, and I've had the opportunity to work as a youth leader for both him and his two sisters. Zeb's a really cool kid with an awesome sense of humor. There has been more than one occasion where he's had me completely cracking up. We've shared many good times like rooming together at Snow Camp, or trying to survive the massive riot that broke out in the four-hour line for Superman at Six Flags. All in all, he's a great kid, who's become a really big part of our group.
What you can't tell from that picture is that Zeb is deaf. And what I also didn't mention is that both of his sisters are affected with a hereditary condition which has severely impaired their vision, as well as their father's and grandmother's. The only member of their family without a disability is Zeb's mother, who recently underwent surgery for throat cancer.
Pretty incredible, right? And the most amazing part of it all is the courage this family shows every day as they stick together and refuse to let their struggles keep them down. They're truly an inspiration. So when the Llanes family was selected to appear on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, everyone in our church was ecstatic.
In less than a week, the Llanes' Bergenfield, NJ house was demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art home. As amazing as the outside looks, I've heard it's even more incredible on the inside, as companies like Verizon and Microsoft spared no expense to completely trick-out the house with the most advanced technology for the blind and deaf. It's a truly amazing story that will air sometime during the summer of '06.
Of course our church family wanted to be there when the Llanes' arrived to show our support and help them "Move That Bus!". And we weren't the only ones. Over 4,000 people showed up to greet the family.
In order to get our front-row seats to the 3pm event, we needed to be outside the house hours eariler. That's a lot of time spent standing around. But luckily there was plenty of things to keep me occupied...
Like the old woman across the street peering through the window in her night gown... "What's all racket! I can't hear Bob Barker call the prices out!"
Or Mullet Watching - one of my favorite activities. As you can see, this is a snap-shot of the rare porcupine mullet.
What a minute! Is that Michael J. Fox in attendance??? Nope. Just Dave Brown.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition designer, Michael Moloney (left), stopped by to let us know that the house turned out "Faaaaaaabulous!"
And of course nothing beat all the people screaming "Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul! or "Tanya! Tanya! Tanya! Tanya! Tanya! over and over again. Seriously people, I think they heard you the 17th time, you don't need to keep asking for an autograph. They'll come over when they feel like it.
Here's a picture of me in the crowd. In case you were wondering, I'm the one with the giant yellow arrow pointing to his head.
After our long three hour wait, the Llanes finally arrived to a hero's welcome. If you'd like to watch them roll up in their limo, great the crowd, and see their reaction when we "Moved that Bus!" I've got some exclusive video footage below. (They're semi-large files, so you may want to right click on them and select "Save Target As..." to download them.)
Clip 1: Arriving in the Limo
Clip 2: Greeting the crowd
Clip 3: "MOVE THAT BUS!!!!!!!!!!!"
All in all, it was a very special experience. I think I speak for all their friends when I say that we couldn't be happier. I can't tell you how nice it was to see people who are so deserving have something truly incredible happen to them.
So was it worth standing all those hours in the cold among the mulleted as they shouted incessantly at the cast? Absolutely. After all, it's not everyday that you get to witness a fairy-tale ending.