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Small town preps big welcome for "Extreme Makeover" family

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Small town preps big welcome for "Extreme Makeover" family

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Maynard may be the second smallest city in all of Massachusetts. But when it comes to the size of its heart, this tiny mill town is second to none.

Which is why -- when Maynard residents learned about the plight of the Giunta family (The father -- Paul Giunta Jr. -- was injured back in March of 2006 while driving home from the hospital where his wife, Renee, had just given birth to their daughter, Brianna. Because his airbag didn't deploy, Paul suffered severe head trauma in this automobile accident and then had to endure 16 months of physical therapy. Now mostly confined to a wheelchair, he couldn't return home because the family's ranch house wasn't handicap-accessible. Which is why Paul was then forced to move in with his elderly parents, unable to live under the same roof with his wife, two young sons and brand-new baby daughter) ... Well, they knew that they had to do something.

Which is why -- back in August of 2007 -- the community came together to create an audition tape for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." They made a direct appeal to the production team behind this popular ABC reality series, asking them to please come to Maynard to help build a handicap-accessible home for the Giunta family. This tape then ended with a shot of hundreds of town residents chanting "Extreme Makeover" 's well-known catch phrase: "Move that bus ! Move that bus!"

Well, the folks at ABC must have really liked what they saw on that audition tape. For last Friday morning, Ty Pennington appeared in front of 13 Elm Court. And after yelling "Good morning, Giunta family!" through his bullhorn, Ty then had Paul, Renee and their family whisked off on a Disney World vacation.


 Photo by Nancy Stadler

And once the Giuntas had left town, that's when the work began. First all of their belongings were cleared out of that modest brick ranch house. Then on Saturday, the building itself was leveled and then the construction site was cleared of all rubble. As to what's been going on since then ... Well, here. Let's grab a bus over to the "Extreme Makeover" worksite and take a look for ourselves.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Mind you, it's a bit of a hike. The bus only takes you to the outermost edge of the set. You then have to make your way down into this mostly middle class neighborhood, snaking around a series of barriers ...


 Photo by Nancy Stadler

... until you then reach this veritable beehive of activity.


 Photo by Nancy Stadler

The Giunta's old 2000-square-foot house is gone. In its place is a brand-new 3200-square-foot home that's completely handicap-accessible. There isn't a single transition point in the entire house. More to the point, with its 36-inch wide front door and all hardwood floors, this building is extremely wheelchair-friendly. So it will be a breeze for Paul to get around in.

However, the folks behind this "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project dream of the day when Mr. Giunta won't need that chair at all. Which is why they added a gym to this house so that Paul (Who's a former triathlete and has run in six different Boston Marathons) can continue his therapy.

As for Renee ... With the hope that this addition would make life a whole lot easier for this hard-working hairdresser, Ty & his team built a brand-new two-chair salon right at the back of the house. And for the Giunta's two young boys, Cameron and Dylan ... Would you believe a custom-made bunk bed that's shaped like a dinosaur?


 Photo by Nancy Stadler

Yesterday afternoon, dozens of volunteers swarmed over the worksite as they rushed to add the finishing touches to this house. Doing everything from adding edging to that new paving stone-lined driveway ...


Photo by Nancy Stadler

... to planting full-grown shrubs in the front yard. So that -- even though it's still February in New England -- the place will still look festive & green when the Giuntas get back from Central Florida.


Photo by Nancy Stadler

By mid-afternoon, construction of the house itself was finally complete and the project could then be handed over to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" 's decorating team. Who then backed up trailer after trailer to the entrance of this building, as they unloaded all of the Giunta's new furniture.

Speaking of Paul, Renee and the kids ... They return today from their well-deserved WDW vacation. And when the Giuntas make that turn onto Elm Court, they're going to be greeted by 5,000 of their friends & neighbors. People who worked through three separate snowstorms and in 20 degree temperatures, just so Paul could then finally come home and live under the same roof with his brand-new daughter, Brianna.

And having been to the worksite yesterday and seen the excitement on all the faces there, I can tell you that the residents of Maynard are dying to say that chant that they practiced last August (i.e. "Move that bus ! Move that bus !") ...


Photo by Nancy Stadler

Only this time, for real.

Welcome home, Giunta family.

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  • Jim,

    What once distinguished your site for me was its in-depth information on WDI's never-built, blue sky or planned attractions, including (and especially) the concept art that no-one else seemed to have.  In the past few years, these type of pieces have become a rarity on JHM and so I frequent the site less often.  Maybe you've already covered all there is to cover on this subject, but I think you should try to spend more time on WDI attractions - articles similar to your definitive pieces on the Western River Expedition, the Disney Decade, Port Disney, etc.

    Appreciated.

  • Jim,

    Thanks for the article and reminder that, although we don't think of it on a regular basis, ABC and its programming is a part of the Mouse and thus relevant for us to keep in mind when looking at the big picture. You article today, may not be on Disneyworld, but is still an inspiring story about how some folks have misfortune hit, and the efforts of the Walt Disney company to bring some magic to their lives.

    Keep up the great work.. great site and inspiring articles.. regardless of what aspect of the mouse is covered. Oh.. and keep up the great info for the MDP! I listen each week. It must get old with all the "Disney Dweebs" hammering away on you as to what THEIR vision of the Walt Disney company should be and hammering on you whenever you attempt to focus on another aspect of the company.

    Don't let them get you down. I particularly was inspired by today's story. Enjoy that snow!

  • As a long time employee of Disney, and a fan of the company since childhood (former Annual Passholder @ Disneyland, married @ Disneyland Hotel, engaged at Epcot, honeymooned @ WDW, collector of movies and freak for park trivia) I have to say that this one show is one of the products I am most proud of.  So much network television is filled with sexual content, violence and lowest common denominator values (even much of ABCs own programming) but this show always shows that there is hope and goodness left in the world and it's a nice way to cap off Sunday evenings.  Thanks for acknowledging the show.

  • The plight of the Giunta family NOW is going to be the attention of all those "visitors" trying to get to see them in their new environment because they are FAMOUS!

    Making a show out of someone's misery is plain disgusting to me!

    What a sad world we live in and so revolting that Disney/ABC is joinning the parade!

    Pooh, pooh!

  • So, giving people in trouble a newly-refurbished home and pushing the idea that helping each other is a cool thing is bad?  I'm taking Greenskyp's crazy pills, I guess.

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