On November 12, Carmen and Jim Simpson and their three children were enjoying a special Southern cooked breakfast from celebrity chef Paula Deen at her restaurant, located in Savannah, Georgia’s historic district. Deen was honoring the Simpsons, along with other families, for their volunteer and charity work when the family learned that they would be the latest recipients of a home makeover as design team leader Ty Pennington and “EM: HE” designers emerged from the kitchen with the exciting news.
Just how Carmen and Jim Simpson and their three children were chosen is a wonderful story. But it could never compare to the amazing story of their son, Zo‘, a medical miracle baby who has beaten the odds at every turn in his young life. When Zo‘ was born, he was given 24 hours to live. He came into the world prematurely with a deadly condition, as well as detached retinas that guaranteed blindness. Even if he did survive, the doctors said he would never breathe on his own, much less see or walk. But Zo‘ (which means “abundant life”) confounded the experts as his eyes healed and his lungs began to work on their own. Surpassing every medical expectation and explanation, today Zo‘ is a happy two-year-old and, although developmentally delayed, continues to grow and thrive. The family feels so blessed after the miracle of Zo‘’s recovery that they continue to repay the blessing as far and wide as possible. They look for ways to serve their community and even keep a wish list of things they want to do for others. But the Simpsons, who moved to Savannah for Zo‘ and his visits to the hospital, need a home that is more conducive to his medical needs. Still, despite their current living conditions, the family approach life’s challenges with a hopeful and positive attitude.
The family also includes Isaac, 8, and four-year-old Katelyn. The Simpsons will all take a vacation to the Bahamas with Disney Cruise Line. Meanwhile, “EM: HE” design team leader Ty Pennington and designers Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, Ed Sanders, local builder JT Turner Construction and community volunteers will rebuild their home.
The location address is: 3905 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31405
There is no bigger Mariah Carey fan than the talented and charismatic Finis Gaston, a shining star in his own right in his Baker, Florida neighborhood. Imagine his surprise when the music legend came to the small town where he takes care of his niece and nephews. Finis was coaching one of his cheerleading sessions yesterday, Monday, October 18, when Carey announced to the Gaston family that they are the latest recipients of an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Finis was raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood, where his mom also took care of his young niece and two nephews. When Finis was 16, the straight A-student and sports enthusiast tried out for the Baker School cheerleading team. After the coach saw his sky-high jump and perfect toe-touch, she volunteered to pay for everything he needed in order to be on the team. He made school history as the first male cheerleader and his confidence and sense of humor made him a school favorite. His dream to go to college and earn a degree in social work came true when he was discovered by a football scout, who offered Finis a full scholarship to Alabama A&M University.
But with just one year left to graduation, Finis’ beloved mother unexpectedly died. Although he was living his dream, he didn’t hesitate to leave college to return home and care for his niece and nephews. Family comes first for Finis, and splitting up the children to be sent to foster care was not an option for him. In addition to his job as a lunch server at Baker School, Finis is a volunteer coach for a local area girls’ cheerleading team at the Baker Area Youth Association. He has led their team to win local competitions and, more importantly, has given the girls a much-needed boost of confidence. He opened a gymnastics business called Finest Tumblers, but he had to shut down when the building was recently sold. The community lost a fun, healthy place for kids to train, and Finis lost the income that he planned to use to make his family’s home safe and livable.
Finis and his niece, 18-year-old Jasqulon Gaston, her baby boy, LaRon and Finis’s nephews, Tyshun Morris, 15 and Tyvun Morris, 8, will go on vacation to Walt Disney World. Meanwhile, “EM: HE” design team leader Ty Pennington and designers Michael Moloney, Tracy Hutson and Johnny Littlefield, local builder Heritage Homes and community volunteers will build the structure.
The location address is: 1301 Rainbow Ave., Pensacola, FL 32505
The “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team is taking the bull by the horns and heading to Tennessee, “The Volunteer State.” With their sights set on the city of Nashville, the designers are poised to honor a community that lives by the code that neighbors help neighbors. After the devastating 500 year flood on May 1st of this year, much of “Music City” was left under water, a number of people died and there was widespread property damage. At the center of the tragedy is the Lighthouse School and the family who’s been running it since 2003, the Sweatt family. The school became known nationally when news stations featured footage of one of their buildings floating down the interstate. Yet, despite the extensive damage to their own facility, the Sweatt family spearheaded recovery efforts, and to date have helped over 200 families.
The Lighthouse School and the Sweatt family are touchstones in the way that they inspire the community by lending a hand. They’ve provided shelter, food, water, clothing, counseling and myriad social and financial services. Many families had no place to turn to and no idea of what steps to take until the Sweatts offered them some guidance. Lighthouse has lived up to its name and become a beacon of hope to a shattered community, but now it could use some support too. Eight of their 18 buildings were damaged beyond repair in the storms, and their preschool was completely demolished. Their finances nearly depleted, they don’t have the resources to hire skilled labor to rebuild the school. Lighthouse has been developing young minds for more than 30 years, but now they’re faced with the brutal possibility of having to shut down the school.
The spirit of Nashville will come alive when some of country’s most celebrated performers descend on the Sweatts and the school that has touched the hearts of thousands. It’s a “Music City Makeover” when the community pools its resources to help rebuild the Lighthouse School. And for the first time ever, the family will find out how “Sweatt” life really is when they rediscover all that Nashville has to offer with the “Ultimate Extreme Staycation!” In just seven days, team leader Ty Pennington, designers Leigh Anne Tuohy, Paul DiMeo and Tracy Hutson, along with LP Building and Hardaway Construction, will go back to school and ring in a New Year!
The location address is: 5100 Blue Hole Road., Antioch, TN 37013-3709
On Sunday, the Lutz family of East Setauket, New York thought they had simply been invited to attend an afternoon baseball game between the Yankees and the New York Mets. Instead they were surprised to find out they would be the latest recipients of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” re-build via the Jumbotron screen at Yankee Stadium. In place of design team leader Ty Pennington’s traditional morning wake up call to the deserving family, he stormed the field and announced the good news just before the game.
Adding to the excitement of both the spectators and family was the appearance of several New York Yankees baseball players who were there to offer encouragement and support. Also, hundreds of volunteer workers, clad in the now- iconic “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” blue shirts, ran out from the dugout to join the Lutz family, Ty and fellow designers on the baseball field.
In an episode that will air later this season, the theme of this build will be “New York! New York!” There’ll be a Broadway-like production, with the entire blue shirt crew and design team singing and dancing while the home is being demolished. Also, during the week of the build, there will be an extravagant parade on the family’s block, complete with huge floats.
The Lutzes are another representation of the kind of family “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” aims to help by building a new home in just seven days. Unable to have children of their own, loving couple Grace and John Lutz gave their hearts to 18 adopted kids, including seven with Down Syndrome. After the couple passed away, their daughter, Kathleen, gave up her career and gladly came home to take care of six Down siblings who currently range in age from 20 to 25 years. Everyone agreed that putting the kids in a group home or institution was not an option. It was a good plan, until Kathleen suddenly and unexpectedly had a grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Her brother, John Jr., was next at bat, sacrificing his successful career as a gymnastics coach to move home and care for his sister and siblings. Kathleen’s health is now stabilized and both brother and sister care for their family as a team.
Nothing can dampen the spirits of this cheerful group. They love to sing and dance, cook and play games together. But the crumbling condition of their 40-year-old home has become a concern. The electrical wiring is unsafe, water leaks everywhere and there is mold and woodrot. Everybody in town loves this charming and special family. They’re local celebrities, and the community rallies to help them in every way. Unfortunately their home is at a point where band-aids are not enough. The Down siblings will not grow up and move away, they will not marry or drive cars. They need their home to be a safe, permanent one, with everything to accommodate their special needs.
The Lutz family will go on vacation to the Hamptons while “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Tracy Hutson, local builder Alure Home Improvements and community volunteers rebuild their home.