When Erica Holleran arrived on Goshentown Road in Hendersonville to see the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” progress on the Hawkins family’s home, she never imagined the dozens of bulldozers and trailers, hundreds of blue-shirted volunteers and countless spectators to be at the site.
“I expected a truck with a trailer and a cameraman,” she said, laughing. “Nothing like this!”
Even so, Holleran is in part responsible for the ABC show’s presence in Tennessee this week.
An acquaintance of Jerrod’s through his baseball coaching, Holleran first heard of the devastation the Hawkins faced on the night of the tornadoes. Amy Hawkins was paralyzed as she protected her two sons, Jair and Cole, from falling debris.
“I was immediately on the phone trying to figure out what to do,” recalled Holleran, a member of the local civic organization Hendersonville Civitan.
Both Holleran’s father and Jerrod’s coworkers at the Brentwood Fire Department had the same idea: to get the Hawkins on the home-rebuilding reality series.
Hendersonville Civitan and Brentwood’s Fire and Police departments joined forces as Holleran started a Web site for the family, www.hendersonvillehero.com. The site featured an online petition aimed to get the Hawkins’ home rebuilt and also served as a centralized location for people to make donations, whether money or requested items, to the family in need. “It’s amazing how these two cities came together so seamlessly,” said Holleran.
Their hard work paid off, generating more than 50,000 petition signatures from across the country.
On Friday, just under four months later and only five days after the public found out the house would be featured on the show, volunteers and crewmembers were putting the final touches on the house. Designed by local company Capitol Homes, the home was built with special attention to Amy’s needs.
“There are chair lifts to get her in and out of the pool, and chair lifts to get her in and out of the hot tub,” said Brentwood Fire Chief Kenny Lane, naming just a few of the many handicapped-accessible features.
But the designers didn’t forget about the rest of the family. Three-year-old Cole gets a cow-themed room, complete with a barn and a covered-wagon bed. Six-year-old Jair, who played on the baseball team coached by his father, has a headboard made out of baseball bats. The house also features a fire engine and fire hydrant, according to Lane.
“With a bell off an actual fire truck,” he smiled.
Lane expressed surprise at the huge turnout among people who had never met the Hawkins and still volunteered to work throughout the nights or throughout the “miserably hot” days.
“The effort of everyone working on the project impressed me more than anything,” he said.
Jerrod’s cousin Sally Kirn agreed that the community enthusiasm has been extraordinary.
“It makes you get all emotional,” said Kirn, who drove down from Wisconsin to help rebuild her cousin’s house. “It gives me goose bumps. This community is amazing.”
Kirn’s 14-year-old daughter sat nearby, working on a poster for the Hawkins’ arrival that read, “Built With Love.” Several onlookers waved similar handmade signs, as workers hosed off the front driveway and added a few more plants to the landscaped yard. Cheering at glimpses of the show’s famous host, Ty Pennington, the crowd waited in the hot sun for the much-anticipated reveal to take place.
The sky began to darken with a mid-afternoon thunderstorm, but the family arrived in time. After initial hugs from both Jerrod’s and Amy’s mothers, chants of Pennington’s catchphrase “Move that bus!” rang out among the crowd, and the Hawkins finally saw their brand-new home.
“Good job, everybody,” yelled Jerrod, as the family made their way toward the front door.
Still feeling the rush of excitement, volunteers and spectators started a new chant for Amy: “Hero, hero, hero!”
Thanks to the support of thousands of people, the Hendersonville hero finally returned home.
Although the Hawkins family has a new house and van, with mounting medical bills and Amy no longer working, Holleran said community support is still welcomed. Donations are accepted online (www.hendersonvillehero.com) or at any US Bank across the country under the name Amy Hawkins/Hendersonville Civitan. People may also contribute to the Brentwood Public Safety Employees Fund, created as a mechanism for citizens to donate funds in support of the Brentwood Fire and Police Departments. Contributions to this Trust Fund can only be used to provide assistance to firefighters and police officers that have experienced unforeseen accidents, injuries or catastrophic losses to themselves or their family members. Donations can be sent to the Brentwood Municipal Center, 5211 Maryland Way, Brentwood, TN 37027.
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