Extreme Makeover - Home Edition
Kemah and the Beach Family

I received an email from a co-worker the day before the door knock that Extreme Makeover Home Edition would be building a house in the Clear Lake area. I immediately went to the website and registered - but being so late, I was never contacted personally with a shift assignment. I started following on Facebook and watching the general flow. The door knock happened and we knew it was the Beach Family in Kemah. One guy who owned Three Oaks Wine Bar in League City was having a meeting later that day and said he would tell us how to get involved. And don't worry... he would have the National Championship game on tv for the Longhorn fans. Not knowing if this guy really knew anything or not, I decided to go and see.

Well, he knew the family and told us to just go to the volunteer tent and use his name. So, I took Friday off and went to the volunteer tent under the Kemah bridge the next morning. I decided I would need to get in on the deal early before too many people came out. Once in, I should know what I needed to know and be good to go for whenever I wanted to come out and help. They gave me some grief until I used his name. For teh remainder of the time, I just showed up with tools and used "construction." Once on the set, I knew enough to avoid the volunteer holding pen and just go get involved with something. This worked great until the very last day (more on that later).

Now, first let me tell you what I learned about the Beach family that night. They were told they were one of the finalists - but they had already been picked and the interviewing was a ruse to figure out the logistics of the project. Part of the ruse included the producer leaving behind a notebook with ficticious families - complete with very sad stories, kids with cancer, and more. When Melissa called the producers to tell them, she said, "Look, I have to tell you.... you need to take us out of the running, those other families need your help so much more." This from someone who fosters and adopts special needs children (85 over the years) and has been living in a FEMA trailer for 18 months (all 15 of them)! I was so blessed to get to be a part of this project.



That first morning I went out we just did the demolition of the house - which was just a bunch of standing around taking numerous takes for the tv shots. Although, it was very cool to see the old flooded, gutted house get demolished! But I got my blue shirt and I was "in." The second time I went out they were framing and I reallythought I was going to be able to help more. But these people had known the plans for a month and could do everything without any direction. I felt bad and wondered if I was being selfish and doing this for the wrong reason. I was devastated and did not know if I would go back.


The days went by as I followed the progress on line. I still never received a call or email - only mass emailings that said they needed skilled workers (which I was thinking I wasn't skilled enough to show up). The aerial shots are awesome, you can see tents, trucks, and other set-up all over the neighborhood!

We were down to the day before reveal. I had an art show in town that evening and wanted to go out to the site at 11pm when I was done to help with the last mad crunch. But I wasn't sure... I was on my way to work and heard KSBJ talking about how people had taken vacation to volunteer when I realized I still had four hours of vacation left. I received a couple of other really personal signs and knew it was right. I had two meetings to support and I would go to the site for a few hours before the art show and assess the current situation. Then if it looked good, I would come back and stay late into the night. I had to run back to the house twice before I finally got everything I needed and on the volunteer bus. With only a couple of hours before I needed to head into town, I went straight to the house, looked around and found a job that needed me. I was amazed how much had been done since I was last here. In those hours I did several different jobs, was filmed with the wheel barrow, put order in the piles of swing set parts, stopped a fire about to ignite the mulch, helped build the swing set while Ty and Jessica Alba did some shots, and had Ty sign my hard hat. If you are anywhere between him and where he is going, your head gets signed!


When I went back, I jumped in again. I hauled dirt, shoveled dirt, hauled some seriously heavy boxes of books, unloaded trucks, and later put booties on and started hauling furniture into the house. I was pretty quick to know what design style went in what room and the production girls liked me. Eventually I had an item that needed some work and was asked to take it back to the craft tent... at last! Scoping out the craft tent, I was put to work hand sanding the chairs. Once that was done I went off looking for the last four chairs - we only had eleven. I checked all three semis numerous times, sore from jumping up inside. I kept pestering the production girls for other places the missing chairs might be. They would send me off, even to a storage building down the street where I got to drive a production cart and in a neighbor's carport where some other stuff was stored (that is where I saw those cool chairs - not the missing ones). I so wanted to find those chairs and be the hero - I looked for over an hour, maybe two! After the last place was checked I reported te news to the lady in the craft tent and she actually paused a few minutes before she told the guy aboutthe missing chairs. That was at 2:30am maybe, and reveal was the next day! I was so tired and wanted to come out the next morning to finish up and be there for the reveal, so I headed home.




Reveal day... getting on the bus, paver nazi, michael, rain, move that bus, viewing spot, numerous takes, no bus for us, the ride home...




Ty stands back and lets the family enjoy it all. He is quick to point out the efforts of teh volunteers and says he mostly rides the bench! I looked a mess when I finally got home.

That bench, by the way, was made from reclaimed Ike wood. The wood they made the fireplace out of was reclaimed from their fence.

The show finally aired on April 4th, Easter Sunday - a two hour special! They really do themselves an injustice by not showing more of the behind-the-scenes of how much work it takes to make this happen. I was hoping with teh extra hour of programming, they would show more behind-the-scenes. Although, it makes the experience for those of us involved so much more special. The last screen shot shows ny pavers in teh background I so dillugently kept clean!



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Video Tour of house and more bonus scenes if you just let the video run
plus lots of related links about the Beach Family and what it took to build the house

Jan 2010

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Susan N. Freeman