Latest News

Welcome home at last

POPULAR COMMUNITY - Overcome with emotion upon seeing her new house for the first time, Renee Wilson embraced Ty Pennington of "Extreme Makeover" and then bolted 15 feet down a rain-soaked dirt road before collapsing to her knees.

Wilson pumped her hands in the air, then crouched onto all fours as if praying, her spiraled curls bouncing madly and tears streaming down her face.

Moments earlier, with crowds chanting "Move that bus!" from the sidelines, Wilson and her four grandchildren spilled out of a limousine and into the waiting arms of Pennington and Gail Horton, one of the two teachers who nominated the family to receive a new house from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

When the bus pulled away at about 2 p.m., the children - Hakeem, 10, Timothy, 8, R.J., 7 and Erica, 5, stood dumbfounded, their mouths twisted into smiles.

As Wilson lost herself in joy, Erica ran into the arms of designer Paige Hemmis, who worked this week on Erica's bedroom.

The family was then surrounded by builders Harry Dill and Clinch Heyward, with Hall Custom Homes, and Berkley and Susan White, with Classic Home Building & Design, who scooped up the children before making their way toward the front of the house.

"My heart is bursting at this moment for this family and these children," Horton said minutes after the surprise. "Hakeem was worried about his grandmother. I told him, 'Honey, grandma's OK,' and he said, 'Those are tears of joy.'"

Wilson, after peeking inside the house, staggered out backward and again fell to her knees, pumping her arms into the air.

Several hundred people had braved the cold and driving rain to take part in the "Move that bus!" moment. Before the family arrived on scene, production crews rallied the crowd during several shoots and spent about three hours filming the moving bus, the approaching limousine minus the Wilsons and cheering spectators from different angles.

"I've been here since 9 o'clock this morning," said Leeann Chartier of Conway. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event, something that will probably never happen again."

Chartier, a fan of the ABC TV show, said she likely won't ever watch the show the same way again, referring to the staged scenes and the behind-the-scenes action.

"It's so completely different from the way you see it on TV," she said. "It's thrilling to be a part of it."

ABC spent the rest of the day Thursday recording the family's reaction inside the house and interviewing them. The home's interior is kept secret until the show airs on March 25.

Volunteers have let leak some details about the interior, such as a Spiderman-themed room for one of the children, a basketball court in the backyard and a large playground complete with a sandbox, also in the backyard.

The show also gave the family a new Ford Expedition, which was hidden behind the house.

Volunteers worked around the clock since Saturday to complete the house by Thursday.

Rain and cool temperatures this week made for uncomfortable working conditions, but didn't pose any major problems, said the home's designer, Bruce Atkins with Hall Custom Homes, one of four men associated with the builders who were charged with organizing the volunteer laborers during the week.

"The community coming together and all the subcontractors and volunteers made this work," Atkins said.