This week on Extreme Makeover we meet the Vardon family. Judy and Larry have two sons. The older of the two boys is Stefan who applied for the Extreme Makeover because their house was not filling the specific needs of the family. Judy and Larry are both deaf and their youngest son, Lance, is blind and autistic. Judy and Larry finger spell into Lance's hand to communicate with him. Lance loves to explore and often heads outdoors to discover the origins of new sounds he hears. This is very dangerous for him since Judy and Larry can not hear him going in and out of the house. It might seem that simply locking the doors would deter Lance, but he has a talent for finding hidden keys. It is almost a game to him. Much of watching out for Lance falls on Stefan as he can hear Lance's wandering and searching for the keys, which he usually does late at night while his parents sleep. Judy and Larry said that when Lance was born they did not know how they would be able to handle his special needs due to his blindness and then they learned of the autism and were even more worried. Though they struggle to meet his needs daily, they could not imagine a world without him. They want a safe environment for the entire family.
I bet you thought we would get to skip the bullhorn wake up call from Ty this week. Not only does he have a bullhorn, but also a huge road construction sign blinking a message to the family. Ty calls the family on his cell phone and they can read the bullhorn blared message over their TTY(text telephone). They emerge from the house thrilled at the sight of the design team.
After greeting everyone the family gives the prerenovation tour. The Vardon's house is the nicest I have ever seen on EM:HE.
While it is structurally sound, has room enough for each person and very well kept, it simply does not suite the needs of the family. Judy would like to see a more open floor plan so that they can sign to each other from room to room instead of hunting each other down in the labyrinth of doors and hallways. She also wants a laundry room in her bedroom area so she does not have to lug everything up and down the basement stairs aggravating her arthritis.
Larry has a dream of a better life for his family, but already works many hours just to help make ends meet. He made an unusual request in asking for a smaller bed in the master bedroom. He said that he just wants to snuggle closer to Judy and the king size bed they have is just too big. Stefan dreams of going to college one day but can not see a way to do that until his family is safe in the house without him. At fourteen he has a huge heart and his priorities in the right place. Lance needs a room that will stimulate his senses and occupy him for hours on end. Usually he spends his time typing and reading in braille as well as swinging in the backyard.
Once Ty sees them off in the limo the team gets down to the designs. The team is amazed by this family which motivates them to pull out all the stops. Ty calls the family while they are in the limo to tell them they are headed for a shopping spree at Sears. They are instructed to buy the finest the store has to offer in clothing because they will be going on a fru-fru vacation. Judy and Larry met when they were four years old. As adults they fell in love and married. On their honeymoon they visited The Grand Hotel but could not afford to spend the night. Now they get an entire week there to enjoy the amenities.
Tracy takes polaroids of Lance's room so that some of his toys will be in a familiar location even in his new room. She realizes the importance of continuity to his surroundings. Later she meets with his teacher to get a grasp on how Lance experiences the world. Wearing a blindfold and donning a white cane she tries to negotiate a small area but quickly becomes overcome by emotion and removes the eye covering. It occurs to her that it must be really frustrating for Lance not to be able to simply remove a blindfold. She learns that while he is legally blind he can still perceive changes in light intensity. With a new perspective Tracy moves forward with plans for the perfect bedroom.
Ty calls dibs on a playroom for Lance in the basement. This week there will be full access to the room by all of the team so that they can implement the best of all of their creative ideas. Ty wants it to be a room where Lance can spend many happy hours discovering and rediscovering every nook and cranny. He even invites in a specialist to guide him on the best way to keep Lance from boredom while playing there. The experts suggest many sensory stimulating elements. Every surface should be covered in a different texture for him to explore.
The team came up with some good ideas for keeping Lance safe at night; his usual exploring time. They have sewn sensors into Lance's PJs that will alert his parents if he should get past the thresholds of the doors. The sensors trigger flashing light and the bed rumbles so they will wake up. Hopefully they will never experience this since programmable keypads have been installed to replace the outdated and often bypassed locks and keys. Now they can set a new code whenever Lance figures one out. Lance will only have access when it is appropriate and safe.
We learn that Stefan loves Australia. On a short trip he visited the outback and fell in love with the sights and sounds of the cultures there. He brought back some really good souvenirs. Paul intends to transport him to the outback by pulling the scenery of Australia into the room. Michael is planning a bright yellow glass tiled retreat for Stefan in his own private bathroom. It is a good thing that particular shade of yellow is Stefan's favorite color. I would not have chosen it myself.
As the house takes on a new shape, so does the backyard. There is a special pool being installed for the family to enjoy while still being safe for Lance to walk near. The pool cover will hold his weight if he happens to wonder over to it. No worry of him tripping an falling in. The team is also constructing a delux tool shed to house all of Larry's tools; all new tools, of course. Next to the tool shed is parked a huge green monster of a four wheeler for Stephan to enjoy. Around the side of the house is a large grill on the porch. Looks like they are all set in the backyard. But wait, there's more. Paul is building the big boy of all swingsets. Some say it is just too big. There is concern for Lance's safety so Paul has some kids over to try it out and they give it the kiddo seal of approval saying that no swing is too big. About this time Stefan sends over a package via his aunt for the team. It has gifts for them and a letter about how wonderful their vacation has been. This gesture brought tears to all and they recommitted to making it the best house yet. Paul says he really should have made the swing bigger. Michael dubs it the most perfect swing ever as Paul swings, jumps and says, "It's not too big.".
The construction crew completed work an entire two days ahead of schedule and the furniture and accessories have not arrived yet. Time is wasting until all the trucks pull up with the goods. Once the furniture is in, it is time for all the extras to make this house truly function for the family. The entire house will be labeled in braille so that Lance can find anything he needs without frustration. He will certainly be occupied for a while orienting himself to the new house. The labels will make it that much easier.
The design team got a crash course in sign language so they could welcome the family home in style. Their teacher was Marley Matlin. She got a tour of the house and gave the team a thumbs up on all the special touches. Ty asks Marley if she might know anyone who could help Stephan reach his dream of going to college. She says that she will make a few calls and try to make it happen.
The day of the family's arrival Ty asked the audience to applaud in sign language with hands raised and shaking so that Lance would not be startled by the cheers of the crowd. When asked if they were excited they responded with silent applause. Ty finds this kind of respect from such a large group a phenomenal gift for the family.
When the family filed out of the limo they were glad to see so many people gathered and cheering for them. When the bus moved Judy, Larry and Stefan were shocked by the sight of their new house.
Walking through the front door they took in all of the beautiful colors Judy had dreamed of for her home.
Lance was nervous at first but once he found everything in the kitchen was labeled he busily read and the entire family relaxed. Lance entered his room and was excited to find his usual toys in just the right spot plus many more new ones. There were even new instruments for him to enjoy all labeled for ease. There were different types of lights all around the room and heating and cooling panels to explore on his own. They were all excited to find out about the safety PJ's Lance had and the new system for keeping him out of harms way.
Once in their room Judy and Larry tested out the light and earthquake show that would warn them of Lance's departure from the house. They got the bed they wanted and much more. They now have a luxurious bathroom and as well as a laundry room in the closet. No more trips to the basement with the hamper.
Now the basement holds a playroom for Lance. Judy and Larry get teary eyed seeing the bright playroom. The entire room is a color, texture, light and braille zone geared for Lance's development and safety. He has his own desk filled with books in braille and the latest equipment for him to type out his own thoughts.
Another area of the basement holds a crafting and computer corner for Judy that allows her to be near Lance's fun center.
Stefan is not left out of the fun. When he enters his basement level room he is transported to the outback. He has a backlit headboard that wraps partially around the room. It is a rendering of actual topography in Australia seemingly illuminated by a sunset. The room is stunningly filled with all types of art found down under. Paul and Preston found an old jeep grill to use as a housing for lights over Stefan's new desk. Let's not forget that he has his own private bath brightly decorated to suite him. He is thrilled by all the bells and whistles. He even has his own fire egress route leading out from the newly expanded window well. I bet he uses it for more than just emergencies.
Once the inside of the house had been viewed, the family heads out to the backyard. They are shown the pool and it's high-tech safety cover.
Larry gets a look at his tool shed all decked out in the finest Sears has to offer and the huge grill on the patio. He is in tears as it is all too much to absorb and it's not over yet. We see the huge swing set for Lance that also has a large wind chime suspended from it's frame. Lance quickly gets into the groove of things and swings up a storm. He really enjoys the wind chimes as well.
Ty pulls out the big green machine that now belongs to Stefan. He is stunned. It gets even better folks.
Marley Matlin joins the family and Judy is amazed that the star is at her home. She greets her with a hug.
Then the representative from Star Key Hearing Foundation steps out and presents Stefan with a jumbo check as he will be attending college on their tab. Marley really came through for Stefan who inspired the entire home makeover.
Hugs all around and that is it for this week's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Joins us next week for another tearjerker.