The popular reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” recently helped to rebuild the lives of Larry and Melissa Beach and their 13 children by tapping into the generosity of hundreds of volunteers who were able to build a  6,340 square foot home in under a week. Among those volunteers was a group of UTMB employees from the League City and Texas City Pediatric clinics who worked throughout one of the coldest nights of the year to help make the family’s dream come true.

“We felt that this was an excellent way to help those less fortunate and show that UTMB supports projects in the communities we serve,” said volunteer Marjorie Kovacevich, senior practice manager for UTMB’s League City Pediatric Associates and Family HealthCare facility.

The group of UTMB volunteers included Kovacevich, Tory Gray, Jeannette Stuart and Rotesha Buckley, all outpatient service associates of League City Pediatrics and Family HealthCare, and Jennifer Danesi, an outpatient service associate from Texas City Pediatrics. 

The volunteers, along with some spouses and friends, worked together on tasks that ranged from unloading trucks to installing windows without giving a second thought to the television cameras rolling in the background.

“We really did not know what to expect. There were lights, cameras and trailers that one would expect to find on a movie set, but the folks doing the work were not actors or paid individuals,” Kovacevich said. “There was an even mix of skilled professionals and lay volunteers, like us, who worked side by side to reach the collective goal of building this deserving family a home.”

Buckley said that she was inspired by the Beach family to volunteer. The family has provided foster care for 85 children over a 24-year period, many of them with special needs.

“I volunteered because I have always been fortunate enough to have a safe and clean shelter for my children, even after the many storms that our area has recently experienced,” Buckley said. “I cannot imagine not having some place safe to care for my children. I am sure when you have a child with a disability it comes with extra stress.  I would want them as comfortable as possible, so anytime that I can help anyone I am ready.”

The group all expressed amazement at the amount of work that was completed in a week and the camaraderie that existed among the volunteers who came from all walks of life.

“It was a very rewarding experience. It was amazing to see how many people it actually takes to complete a project like this in the short amount of time allotted,” Kovacevich said.  “Everything was planned precisely and it was satisfying to see how much was accomplished at the end of our shift.”

The volunteers agreed that they would do it again if ever given the chance, and that they will hold the memories in their hearts for a long time.

“It was an excellent bonding experience for those who went and something that we will all remember for many years to come. It was a very moving evening that we spent together on a very special project,” Kovacevich said.

 Commit for life

The UTMB Blood Center partnered with Extreme Makeover during the event by unveiling their new state-of-the-art blood mobile and hosting a week-long blood drive that resulted in 100 units of blood.

“The experience was great. The production company was really nice to work with and provided us with an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition banner to hang on our brand new donor coach for all the blood donors to sign,” said Christi Hopkins, blood center administrative manager. “Participating in this event was great publicity for our brand new donor coach. It let people in the community know that we are back in business and now have a full service donor coach.”

The new blood mobile has three rooms to interview blood donors, one more than its predecessor, allowing for more efficient service. It also gives donors the choice to donate platelets, red cells or plasma which was not possible on the former coach.

**Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring the Beach family is a two-hour episode scheduled to air on April 4 at 8 p.m. on ABC.