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Emotions flow as 'Makeover' airs

January 18, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- Memories and laughter were shared Sunday night when about 50 people gathered with the Matthew and Blasia Drumm family to watch the premiere of the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" episode filmed last November in South Mountain, Pa.

Dan Ryan Builders, which took on an ambitious 106-hour construction schedule for the show, hosted a viewing party at the Dogfish Head Alehouse. A wall-mounted, flat-screen television played a special DVD and the ABC show -- interspersed with moments of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens game.

Matthew Drumm's mother, Amy Drumm, clutched a fistful of tissues while watching the show. She most enjoyed listening to her grandchildren react to seeing themselves on television.

"It's so magnificent. It's so life-changing," she said.

A fire-breathing Megasaurus robot demolished the Drumms' Loop Road house on a chilly night as cameras rolled. A 2,500-square-foot house with energy-efficient amenities stood in its place a week later.

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Each of the Drumm boys -- Ben, Donnie and Nathan -- received a custom-decorated bedroom from the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" design team. The episode showed Donnie meeting his favorite special-effects artist, Tom Savini, and Nathan discovering his Godzilla room as he played around with show host Ty Pennington.

Donnie and Nathan, ages 15 and 12 when the episode was filmed, are autistic. Through learning about their own children's needs, Matthew and Blasia Drumm grew increasingly connected to other special-needs children in the area and started working with the Challenger Little League team in the Pen Mar Youth League.

Ed Barnett, executive vice president for the Pen Mar Youth League, distinctly remembers talking to a casting director in July 2008. He also remembers being pulled aside and told that applicants from rural areas are less likely to be chosen.

"I said, 'I'll find a builder, and if you want 2,000 volunteers, I'll get you 3,000,'" Barnett said.

And that's exactly what happened.

"It's like I said in the exit interview. This didn't restore my faith in the community; this reaffirmed it," Barnett said. "I always knew we had a wonderful community."

Dan Ryan said people approached him often, saying they were excited to see the debut.

"This was a snapshot of all our lives that was wonderful, and we'll be different people because of it," he said.

The home builder was surprised when the Drumms were given a hybrid car at the end of the show. Although they were given a 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid on the air, Blasia Drumm said she instead requested a Ford Escape hybrid due to frequent ice accumulations on the mountain.

Almost nothing has been changed in the house since the family first toured it, Blasia said.

"For me, it felt like home right away," she said, adding that she's still unpacking boxes.

Her reaction during the show clearly demonstrated that she most appreciated seeing the inclusion of other children and young adults involved with the Challenger team. The team of special-needs players enjoyed a game in Walt Disney World as a surprise for the Drumms on their vacation.

"That's the best part. I think every child should go to Disney World," Blasia Drumm said.

When Blasia Drumm began to cry during Ryan's speech, her husband moved his chair closer and took her hand. Minutes later, though, it was his turn to tear up as he thanked the builder, suppliers and tradesmen.

"Words don't begin to express it. Everyone that was involved, thank you and God bless you from the bottom of our hearts," Matthew Drumm said.

"Our home is always open to you," he added.

A behind-the-scenes DVD and photo book are being sold at www.drbextreme.com to benefit the family. The DVD shows the first interview with Barnett.

"Some people have an unlimited capacity for love," he said in the interview, "and that's the Drumms."

In their nomination video, Blasia Drumm explained that her family didn't have a lot of money or a great house. Instead, she said, they have love.

"That's the only thing holding the walls up," Matthew Drumm joked.

Matthew and Blasia Drumm said they are ready for the whirlwind of attention to be over. Sears established a fund for the family to pay for ongoing expenses.

A solar panel and especially thick insulation help cut utility bills at the house, which has central heat, unlike the old one with its single wood-burning fireplace. The old house was built on a trash dumping site that released glass, needles and car parts into the yard during rainstorms.

"It's just nice not having to worry about running water. And when the wind blows, we hear it and don't feel it," Blasia Drumm said.

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