By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetFebruary 25, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Jeremy and Jennifer Williams of Pine Mountain Valley, Ga., will receive a brand new modular home Saturday, thanks to ABC's reality TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
The high-school sweethearts bought their current home 13 years ago, but it has since fallen into disrepair. Jeremy, who coaches football at Greenville High School, was diagnosed two years ago with Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that inhibits the brain's ability to control muscle movement. His second child, 6-year-old Jacob, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect involving an unclosed spinal column. Jacob is paralyzed from the waist down. Eventually, his dad will be confined to a wheelchair as well.
That's why their new house will be 100 percent handicap-accessible, said Courtney McGarry, public relations representative for Nationwide Homes.
There will be no stairs or steps anywhere, and everything in the energy-efficient home represents a fresh start for the Williams family.
"It's going to make their quality of life higher," McGarry said. "They're going to have new furniture. They're going to have new silverware. Everything in this house is donated ... from the air conditioning to the septic tank to the curtain rods."
Labor was donated, too.
When SPC Alexis Santiago, brigade S1 for the Ranger Training Brigade, heard about the project from his first sergeant, he signed up to volunteer along with SFC Daniel Byron, the brigade senior tactical NCO.
"I'm more of a hands-on guy," Santiago said. "I have experience in roofing ... carpentry. It'll make me feel good knowing that we did it, that we contributed to it, because it's helping the family. That's the main thing: I'm helping somebody else."
Byron said he volunteers to lead by example, since he has two high school-aged kids at home.
"I enjoy my time here in Columbus and my community; it's a great place to live. And I think if more people would help out their neighbors, obviously it would make the world a much better place," he said. "Every little bit helps when people are struggling.
"I'd like to think that if I was in Iraq or Afghanistan and something happened to my house, someone would step up and help my wife take care of what needed to get taken care of. I would hope that if it were my family in need, someone would be there to help me."
However, because there were 2,430 volunteers- not including skilled labor for construction - the Rangers weren't needed.
Work on the 24-hour build site will wrap up Saturday morning, less than one week since the dilapidated former home was demolished.
The joy of the Williams family, on vacation at the Adaptive Sports Center in Colorado during construction, was "overwhelming," McGarry said.
"Jeremy Williams kept mentioning he was speechless, that words can't express how thankful he is," she said. "You can't get a better American story. It's true love, hard work (and) perseverance."
The episode will air six to eight weeks from today as the season finale.