December 13, 2009 07:56 PM by Candace Young
On ABC tonight, Extreme Makeover Home Edition travels to Erie, Pennsylvania where Ty Pennington and the Design Team will help the Ward Family. Mary J. Blige joined the team in Erie to assist Clara Ward, who, despite being handicapped, and living in a run-down home in a bad area, has opened her heart and home to run a nonprofit youth development and family center for children in need. Her visually-impaired son, Bennie, helps, as does her daughter Cynthia, who doesn’t live with them. In one of the most inspiring and emotional two-hour special episodes ever, the team also goes out and does mini-makeovers in the neighborhood. Also, this renovation proves extra-challenging when one of the team’s trucks carrying foundation footings and walls overturns…
The Extreme Makeover Home Edition bus pulls up at the playground where Cynthia, Clara’s adult daughter, is playing with some of the children. She and the children rush to greet Ty, the Design Team, and a visibly moved Mary J. Blige. Ty loads them all on the bus to go to the house, where they surprise Clara and Bennie. After listening to a few of the kids describe what Clara means to them, Ty informs them they’re going to Walt Disney World!
Clara, in her wheelchair, shows Ty the inside of the house. Mary J. Blige and Paige marvel that Clara can’t even get around in the home – and can’t even close her bathroom door! Mary says she saw neglected children when she was growing up, and becomes emotional as she tells Paige that she’s never seen someone care as much as Clara – she will make a difference to these kids’ lives. Paul checks out Bennie’s room, noting that he is almost legally blind, and that will have to be taken into consideration when designing his space.
As the renovation gets underway, Ty comes up the street with a huge group of children volunteers. He contacts Clara, Cynthia, and Bennie in Disney World so they can see what is going on at home. John Maleno, the builder, is brought in to oversee the job. He is eager to help provide a facility for Clara continue to help kids. The kids man the walkie-talkies as the excavators demo the house!
The Design Team gets started, with Paige fashioning a vanity from an old dresser, and Paul making child-size tables. There is a setback, however, when a tractor-trailer overturns on the road and the concrete walls and footings for the foundation are destroyed. Paul calls it disastrous. The builder is able to locate some more walls in Rochester – about a four hour drive away.
Mary J. Blige helps Paige work, and says she doesn’t usually help rebuild homes, but she does help rebuild lives and empower girls through her Three E’s Workshops.
Paul lines up some technology that will help Bennie see television better. Ty is working on setting up a new youth development center. Mary takes Paige to one of her workshops to see what she does.
On Day 4, the house renovation has another glitch when the builder tells Paul that the wiring and vents have to be moved. Paul admires how John Maleno keeps his head, and doesn’t lose his temper. Ty contacts the family and has them open their gift – they get to meet an accomplished international chef and learn a recipe from him. Clara is thrilled. The Ward family is then taken to a room full of children waiting to be adopted will be fed. They will also get to spend the day with the family at the Magic Kingdom!
Mary J. Blige puts the finishing touch on a special project for Clara – inspired by an extravagant chandelier – it’s actually made from silverware to symbolize feeding the children. John and Paul walk the neighborhood to talk to some of the kids Clara helps. They decide to help in several situations where several children are living uncomfortably, in poverty, and afraid.
By Day 5, siding is going up, flooring is going in, and some excess rain has messed with the landscaping, but spirits remain high. Paul and John discuss the mini-makeovers for the neighborhood kids with Ty and Paige. Ty gets the kids out of the way by taking them to an indoor playground.
Paige and Mary J. Blige gather up some kids to help make a quilt for Clara’s room. Paul is finished with the neighborhood renovations and shows the children their new bedrooms! The Ward family is contacted to watch the reveals of the mini-makeovers. The children are overwhelmed by their new rooms, and Clara says Extreme Makeover Home Edition has changed the community!
The Ward family home is almost ready, and Paige shows off computerized revolving shelves that Clara can access from her wheelchair using a remote control! Ty thanks the 3,500 volunteers and takes the house key from John before calling for the furniture to be brought inside!
Mary J. Blige goes in to see the new house and is moved to tears thinking of how Clara will react. She remarks on how it is like a miracle, and how much it is deserved.
A huge crowd gathers for the return of the Ward family to Erie. Ty appears and the limo pulls up beside the bus. The family emerges and Mary J. Blige is already crying. The crowd goes wild and Clara waves. Ty tells her how much hope she has given these people. The chant begins – “Move that bus!”
There’s not a dry eye – including mine – as Clara, Bennie, and Cynthia behold the new house. Clara remarks that she looked at it and knew it would live on for the children even after she is gone. Mary J. Blige kneels down beside Clara’s wheelchair to give her a hug. Ty tells them to go check out their new house!
Clara deems the new interior ‘breathtaking’, and Cynthia comments that Clara can spin around in her wheelchair in there and not bump into anything! Ty comes inside and Clara actually asks him if she is truly allowed to live in there! Ty marvels that she’s really not had anything new before.
Clara goes into her new master bedroom and accessible bathroom – she says she’s died and gone to heaven! Bennie dances around his room with glee and goes out on his balcony to wave at the crowd! He is shown his reading magnifier by Paul, and talks about how much independence this gives him. Ty shows Clara her quilt made by the kids, and her new vanity – which is her old dresser!
Finally, Ty takes Clara to see the new room he made for the kids she helps out. It’s an enormous youth center full of tables, chairs, a kitchen, toys, computers, books, and space. Clara is overcome with tears and says it ‘blows her mind’! Ty gets a big hug from Clara, and then they bring in the kids to see it!
Last, Ty asks if they would all like to see the backyard. He also informs Clara that there is an elevator which will take her down into the basement – which is also painted and filled with things for children and arts & crafts! Clara is told by Paige that CVS Pharmacy has stocked the house with everything she will need to feed and clothe the children – as well as a $25,000 fund to keep doing it!
Back out front, a neighborhood barbecue is underway, and Clara learns that a scholarship has been established at a local college in her name – this will live on and make a difference. Ty ends with, “Welcome home, Ward family, welcome home!”
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Photos Courtesy: ABC, Go Erie