The official word: The heart-tugging original feel-good series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” concludes its 9th and final season on ABC with two episodes in January 2012, including its biggest-ever build -- the 200th episode, in which the team builds 7 homes in 7 days for tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. The final two regularly scheduled episodes, ”Gibbs Family” and “Joplin, Missouri,” will air January 6 and January 13, respectively (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” will continue on ABC with specials after this season.
During its run, the quintessential feel-good reality show transformed the lives of thousands of deserving families and galvanized communities and businesses to help their neighbors in need. “EM:HE” also put a spotlight on causes that touched these families, ranging from the treatment of serious illnesses or accident victims and the importance of foster care and adoption, to helping veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and the plight of the homeless, to campaigning against texting while driving and building coalitions to end bullying. Celebrities including First Lady Michelle Obama, Elton John, Robin Williams, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, Glenn Close, Tyler Perry, Mary J Blige, Carrie Underwood, David Duchovny, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Usher, KISS, Rihanna, Jessica Alba and Derek Jeter are among the many who “got on the bus” over the years to join the show. In addition, the series won multiple Emmys for Outstanding Reality Program, received six Emmy nominations, won two People’s Choice Awards and an NAACP Image Award, as well as many additional honors.
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As the series traveled to all 50 states, the team designed and re-built over 200 state of the art homes, and didn’t stop there, also tackling firehouses, schools, daycares, soup kitchens, Little League fields, free clinics, churches, food and clothing shelters, summer camps, community centers, dormitories, parks, teen centers, homeless shelters, animal shelters, dance studios, therapeutic riding centers and much more. A typical build attracted 3,000-5,000 volunteers, for a total of over one million people sacrificing their time to build for their neighbors. “EM:HE” held blood drives along with the American Red Cross and collected life-saving blood for over 20,000 people to date. For each build, they’d fill an average of three food pantries for those in need. In Toledo, Ohio, they collected three truck-loads of school supplies, clothes and food for Haiti. In Indianapolis, Indiana, the builder made over six blocks surrounding the inner city location of the show’s build site. In Salem Oregon, “EM:HE” worked with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to supply over 150 hearing aids to children from the Oregon School for the Deaf and their families. In Buffalo, New York, with the help of Americorps, volunteers finished over 100 projects for inner city homes. More than 50,000 people from all 50 states took the pledge to stop texting while driving. And over 140,000 people took a stand to end bullying.
The final two episodes are:
“Gibbs Family” -- On Friday, January 6 (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” travels to Fayette County, Iowa to surprise the Gibbs family, and musician Bret Michaels appears in this episode. Audrey Gibbs is a mother, a widow, a farm owner and a maternal optimist who won’t let anything stop her from raising her six children, not even her blindness and her battle with a potentially fatal condition. Seven months after her husband died, Audrey had a brain aneurism that affected a quarter of her brain – leaving her legally blind. The doctors cannot say if she is going to lose her sight completely or even if she is going to live or die. Audrey has always been pragmatic and has no time for self-pity. She is passionately committed to doing whatever it takes to raise her kids. Realizing she could not continue working as a cosmetologist, she decided to attend massage therapy classes, as she knew it was a career she could still practice after losing her sight. However, Audrey does worry about what will happen to her kids, should the worst happen. The Gibbs family own and live on a farm which they rent portions of to local farmers for additional income. Their farmhouse is in need of significant repair, with no working toilet, a ceiling that’s caving in and a layout that doesn’t work for the family at all– especially for Audrey, if she loses her eyesight completely. The “EM:HE” design team has just seven days to build a brand new home for the Gibbs. The family has been whisked away on a dream vacation to Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, while “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, Sabrina Soto, Jeff Dye and local builders Larson Construction Company, Inc., as well as community volunteers, build the structure. This episode will air Friday, January 6 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network.
“Joplin, Missouri” -- In October 2011, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” traveled to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, to celebrate its 200th episode in historic fashion. The show surprised an unprecedented 7 families with the door knock that changes lives, and the “EM:HE” design team and a volunteer “army” of 13,000 people, along with the builders, will create 7 beautiful homes in just 7 days. In addition, they refurbished a local park, created a new playground and a poignant memorial site to those volunteers who came to the aid of others during and after the tornado. Celebrities who got involved with this episode include LA Laker Kobe Bryant, Kansas City Chiefs’ matt Cassel and Clark Hunt, as well as “Good Morning America’s” Sam Champion. This episode will air Friday, January 13, (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
On May 22, 2011, a catastrophic tornado ravaged the town of Joplin, killing approximately 160 people and destroying nearly 8,000 houses. This will be the biggest build ever for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” – 7 homes will be built for 7 deserving families. Some of the Joplin families lost friends, some lost children, and all lost their homes.
The parents and children from all 7 of the Joplin families were whisked away on a dream vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, while “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Paige Hemmis, Michael Moloney and Tracy Hutson, along with Sam Clifton from Millstone Custom Homes, who is lead builder for 21 builders, and approximately 13,000 Volunteers and community volunteers build the structures and work on the local park. These are the stories of the seven families:
The Howard Family
Kyle, the father and a Joplin fireman, was at work at the fire station during the storm and spent the first two hours after the tornado not knowing if his wife and kids had made it out alive. He made many stops along the way home, through the rubble, rescuing trapped victims and tending to injured members of the community. Meanwhile Jill and their children, Konnor, Korbin and Kaleb, huddled in a closet. A door landed on top of them, which they used to deflect the debris. This ultimately saved their lives. After the storm, they had no idea if Kyle was alive, but eventually the family, along with older son Keenan, who was out of town at the time, was reunited. Jill sustained minor injuries, but their home was completely destroyed.
The Nevins Family
Kari and Justin Nevins love Joplin and prior to the tornado, their home was known as “the neighborhood’s house,” where kids could play, have refreshments and hang out. Kari is part of Bright Futures, a, organization whose goal it is to increase graduation rates through teaming with businesses and faith-based partners to provide for the needs of students. The parents, along with their children, Uriah, Avery, Cana and Rhoen, ran to the cellar. As they huddled together, they felt the force of the tornado as it ripped apart their house. After making sure his family was safe, Justin immediately started helping others by searching and digging neighbors out of the destruction. The tornado not only destroyed their home, it also destroyed the entire neighborhood and school Kari worked so hard to help. Without a home, the Nevins are now staying in a rental home 17 miles outside Joplin, as they try to piece back their lives, but they want to come back.
The Cogdill Family
Single mom Crystal Cogdill works for the Joplin Housing Authority. She has a passion for helping people find housing, but in a cruel twist, now finds herself homeless. In the tornado, Crystal lost her 9-year-old son, Zach Treadwell. Upon hearing the sirens, she hustled her kids inside the house and, following her emergency plan, huddled with them in the bathtub. As the home came apart around them, she felt her grip on her children weakening. The storm eventually overpowered her and ripped the kids from her arms. When she next saw Zach, his lifeless body was pinned beneath a utility pole. Stunned, Crystal finds her friend (also named Crystal). The two friends soon make a horrifying discovery; both of them have lost children to one of the most devastating weather events this nation has ever endured. Currently, Crystal Cogdill lives with friends and has begun the process of starting over.
The Whitely Family
Before the storm, Crystal Whitely was the ultimate single mother taking care of her three kids and working as a personal care aid. Crystal loved working with her clients that were disabled and elderly, but her kids are her life. The night of the storm, the whole family took cover in the bathtub, but moments later, the house was pulled off its foundation. Though she tried desperately to hang on to them, 10-year-old Shante and 6-year-old Trentan were ripped from Crystal’s arms. Only Crystal and her 4-year-old daughter, Keana, survived.
The Walters Family
In 2006, Tom and Emily Walters bought a house with dreams of raising their family in the beautiful, small town of Joplin. Emily is a nurse, and Tom a coach and teacher. Together they dedicated their lives to helping and nurturing the happiness and well-being of others. When the siren sounded on May 22nd, the family didn’t realize what was coming their way. It started hailing and then, all of a sudden, it got worse. They ran to the bathtub. Huddled together, feeling the roof rip off and objects hurling around, 9-year-old daughter Chloe cried out to her mom and dad, “Don’t let me die!” Feeling helpless, all Tom and Emily could do was pray with Chloe and ride out the storm. As soon as it passed, Tom and Emily knew people in the neighborhood would need help. After making sure their daughter was safe with a neighbor, they ran down to a nursing home that had caved in and began digging people out. Along with others, Tom and Emily helped rescue several people. With their home destroyed and unable to be rebuilt, they’ve moved from place to place.
The Nguyen Family
Thang Nguyen (pronounced “win”) came to the U.S. in search of the American dream. Thang was in the Vietnamese Air Force and fought alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Afterwards, he was able to move to the U.S. with his family and took a job with General Mills in Joplin. He was on the verge of retirement when the May 22nd tornado took away his dream. That Sunday night, Thang had a craving for seafood. Though his wife, Tiffany, had already prepared dinner, Thang convinced her to go out to eat at a local seafood restaurant. It was lucky for them that she gave in. The tornado missed the restaurant but tore apart their home. Had they stayed in that night, they may not have survived. The Nguyens had been living with Tiffany’s daughter, Sara, and their granddaughter, Alex. The Nguyens received help from a local church and are living in an apartment funded by insurance. However the lease will be up in December, and Thang and Tiffany will be left with no place to live.
The Gonzalez Family
Having both been divorced, Natalie and Scott (who live with Natalie’s son, Augie) didn’t think they would remarry. But when the tornado took their home, they changed their minds. Before moving to Joplin, Natalie lived in California and once saw a special about earthquakes. She learned that putting a bicycle helmet on your child’s head could save his/her life. When the tornado hit, the family huddled in their bathtub, with Scott on top holding on to a mattress and Augie wearing a bicycle helmet. The roof flew off, and suddenly the Gonzalez family was facing the full brunt of the tornado. Scott was picked up off the family and thrown back down in the bathroom. A toilet from the second bathroom flew through the air and hit Augie. The bicycle helmet he was wearing shattered to pieces but saved Augie’s life. Natalie was pelted with debris while trying to protect her son, severely hurting her back. While up in the air, Scott watched his family. It was at this moment that he realized, if they all survived, he wanted to marry Natalie and become a legal stepfather to Augie. When the wind started to calm down, Natalie realized they were in the eye of the tornado and their house was gone. Realizing they wouldn’t survive the second wave, Natalie and her family rushed over to a drainage ditch to find cover. Watching Scott carrying her son with his good arm (the other suffering a compound fracture), Natalie knew Scott would be her husband. They survived the tornado, broken and without a home, but their family had grown stronger and closer. Scott proposed to Natalie a few weeks later, and now the family would like to start over. They’re currently living in a rental outside of town, but the family loves Joplin and plans on driving Augie back for school.