TV design team comes knocking in Oak Park
August 6, 2004
Stefan Vardon, a 14-year-old from Oak Park, wrote an essay for extra credit at school earlier this year about his family.
Both of his parents, Larry and Judy Vardon, are deaf. His younger brother, Lance, 12, is blind and autistic. But Stefan wanted people to know he has a loving family that made him proud.
On Thursday, that essay helped the Vardons land the jackpot: a visit from ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," a reality TV show that remodels a family's home each episode.
The show's design team, led by star Ty Pennington, knocked on the Vardons' door around 7 a.m. In less than a week, they'll redo the brick, 980-square-foot home,adding communications and safety devices for people with hearing loss.
"I was shocked," said Stefan, who opened the door Thursday. "I was amazed. I was out of breath."
Stefan's mother was overwhelmed. A few months ago, Judy Vardon waited in line for four hours at Sears to turn in Stefan's essay as part of the show's application.
Judy Vardon does volunteer work teaching braille and sign language to blind and deaf children. Larry Vardon is a welder for Chrysler Group.
The producers of the show had called the Vardons to find out more information, but the family didn't know until Thursday that they had been chosen.
"I wanted to scream, but I couldn't," Judy Vardon said through a sign language interpreter.
After a few hours of taping for the show, the Vardons were whisked away to Mackinac Island for a vacation while the Home Makeover team laid groundwork for the task ahead.
The area around the home was cordoned off. About 100 people gathered at the corner of Gardner and Labelle, just off 11 Mile, to catch a glimpse of what was going on. They reached over metal barricades to snag autographs from the design team.
Eight-year-old Sarah Tomkowiak of Oak Park had an autograph from Pennington scrawled across her hand.
"Everybody loves Ty," she said. "He's the coolest."
In the next few days, a marvel of modern remodeling will unfold before the eyes of the neighborhood.
A job that normally takes four to six months will be completed in less than six days, said Adam Helfman, president of Southfield-based Fairway Construction Co.
Fairway is the local generalcontractor for the job, overseeing hundreds of local trade workers.
This mad scramble to redo a home has become a regular routine for the show's design team. The show is in its second season. The makeover of the Vardon home should air this fall.
The home makeovers are a challenge, but the effort always pays off, said Michael Moloney, an interior designer with the show.
The homes selected for the show usually involve a family with a special need.
In the past, the show has remodeled homes for a soldier returning from Iraq, two New York City firefighters, a couple expecting triplets and a family of eight children who lost their parents.
Moloney said he looks forward to helping the Vardons.
"They're proud," Moloney said. "We're just going to make their life easier."