SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — In the words of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” host Ty Pennington, “Welcome home Walker family. Welcome home.” After a week in the dark surrounding their new home, Sirdeaner Walker and her family to see the surprise hundreds of volunteers help build.
The address is the same, 124 Northampton Avenue, but the house is different, the trees, the landscape, even the sidewalk. Might as well rename Northampton Avenue “Hollywood Boulevard”.
“I can’t believe they’re coming home today,” says designer Tracy Hutson. So much has changed for the Walker family since last Sunday, when they jetted away for a Hollywood vacation.
“It’s good to see everyone come out to support the family,” says Amelia Dyson of Essex, Conn.
Two-and-a-half years after Sirdeaner Walker’s son Carl — a victim of relentless bullying at school — committed suicide at just 11 years old.
A house of so much sorrow replaced by a dream home. The excitement of the big reveal, equaled for the roughly 4,000 on hand by their compassion.
“There’s no reason an 11-year-old boy should have to go through something like that. It’s so sad. It’s not worth it,” says Special Olympian and volunteer Alyssa Neil.
“I was bullied but not that bad. It wasn’t a great experience for me,” says Sarah Shephard of Chester, Conn.
The bullying, no, but today’s exhilaration, the experience of a lifetime.
“It’s just an amazing feeling, helping the family. They really deserve it,” adds Shephard.
Matthew Charpentier, Special Olympian and volunteer, says “What does it mean to you, to be part of this? To support others and have a great time.”
Hutson says, “Oh my gosh, it’s been amazing. Springfield has been phenomenal. We’ve had such an amazing response to this anti-bullying mission that we’re on with the Walker family.”
Including Carl’s little brother Charles and sister Gloria, when they outgrow their new bedrooms after high school years from now, a full scholarship at UMass awaits them. “Education transforms lives; it transforms families, and here’s a family that really needs help in that transformation, so it’s always a good feeling to make those doors open up and make those things happen,” says UMass President Robert Caret.
But, first things first — the big reveal — and an eager crowd. “I’m glad it’s the last day because the family can finally see it,” says volunteer Matthew Townsend.
What? No sadness that a week like no other is over? “It’ll be good to sleep again!” adds Townsend.
Recharge those batteries fast. We just might see Ty and company in these parts again some day.
Hutson hints, “We’ll come back to Springfield any time you guys want us!”
Hard to imagine whether this neighborhood will be the same after Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but things will never be the same for one grateful family.