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Challenger team's road trip to Disney surprises 'Makeover' family

November 14, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Pa. -- The Pen Mar Challenger Little League team had a few extra players for Tuesday's game.

Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Goofy, joined the children and young adults with special needs on the field when the team surprised the Drumm family in Orlando, Fla. Blasia Drumm cried uncontrollably when she saw her sons' teammates.

The Drumms have been sequestered at Walt Disney World since last Friday, when they officially learned they had been selected for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." They have been kept in the dark concerning many things, including the design of their new house and the fact that teammates also were on their way to Florida.

"This is a phenomenal thing they're doing for the Drumms. I'm so excited for them," said Dawn Hays, who flew to Walt Disney World with her son.

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The Drumms will see their 2,500-square-foot, stone-front house this afternoon.

"They're just going to be floored," said Patti Ernst, who accompanied her daughter to Orlando.

The Challenger team met Sunday in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., for a game with guest umpire Ty Pennington, who is the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" design team leader. His special announcement came at the game's end.

"Ty pulled us to the center and said, 'Guess what, you're going to Disney World!'" Ernst said.

About 20 players and their guardians flew out early Tuesday. They surprised the Drumms after lunch and visited theme parks until they returned home Wednesday.

"She's been telling everybody about the rides and how she played ball with Minnie Mouse," Ernst said of her 6-year-old daughter, Cheyenne.

"He's not able to talk, but he's indicated he was very excited to go on the plane and go on the rides," Hays said of 8-year-old TJ.

Designer Didiayer Snyder and videographers joined the group on the airplane, where Snyder tossed bags of peanuts that the players hit across the cabin with foam bats.

Both Hays and Ernst praised the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crew and Walt Disney World staff for their work with the special needs children.

"It seemed the kids' comfort was foremost in their minds," Hays said.

Ernst especially will remember the way designer Paul DiMeo related to her daughter at the first game. The girl looked to him for a hug, but was unable to tell him what she wanted.

"He threw her up in the air and hugged her," Ernst said.

The women said they were pleasantly surprised by how well their autistic children handled the busy schedule.

"New things can sometimes be really overwhelming for him, but at the same time, it's important for him to experience it," Hays said.

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