'Extreme Makeover' family thanks volunteers, God for new home

January 19, 2011 

India Dickinson says there's only one way the crew of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" could have planned her new house so perfectly.

"I don't know how they did it -- well, I do -- God. He already knew what was in my heart and what my dream home was," she said at a press conference Wednesday. "There's no way I can tell you guys what this will do for our family."

The reality TV show, which focuses on teams of volunteers who renovate a needy family's home, wrapped up a week-long shoot in Beaufort on Tuesday. An air date has not yet been chosen, but episodes normally run six to eight weeks after they are shot.

Several local organizations attended the press conference to give the family last-minute gifts, including an "extreme smile makeover" for India from an area dentist, digital cameras, and a set of golf clubs for each family member.

The president of the College of Charleston announced the five Dickinson children will each receive a full, four-year scholarship for an undergraduate degree, as long as they meet admission requirements.

"It gives us something to look forward to," said 16-year-old Grant.

Before the "Extreme Makeover" shoot, the Dickinson's home was plagued with myriad problems. Chief among them was mold, which created respiratory problems for the children, including the youngest, Sophia.

"She's 16 months old and has done nothing but been on medicine since she was born," India said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Bill Dickinson, currently serving in Afghanistan, had worked to fix up the house before he was deployed, but problems persisted. He watched via satellite as the new home was unveiled on Tuesday.

Builders and volunteers demolished the home and built in its place a two-story, 4,000 square-foot house in a plantation style, with six bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Work went forward at all hours of the day and night. In a week, the Dickinson's possessions were moved to storage, the old home was torn down, a new foundation was poured, walls were erected, pipes and wires were run, the roof was placed and shingled, drywall was hung and painted, cabinets and appliances were installed, and new furniture was moved in.

Todd Hawk, owner of H2 Builders, which led the local construction effort, said the house would have taken about a year to build under normal circumstances.

"There's not one person you can really thank here," Hawk said. "There are a lot of unsung heroes out there that really pulled this off and made this happen."

About 3,000 people volunteered time and muscle to the build, Hawk said, and they came from across the state and beyond.

"We had a couple here from Sacramento -- took their vacation and worked here all week," he said.

Hawk's employees put in 15-hour shifts, he said.

A crew will inspect the house with the family today and any finishing touches will be added this week.

India described it as a "new beginning," for her family.

"This house is exactly, everything and more, that I could ever want," India said. "My husband told me to hug everyone and tell you 'thank you so much.'"

After a week's vacation at Disney World while construction crews worked, the family is headed toward normalcy again.

"They'll be getting back to school, hopefully tomorrow if we can find their uniforms," India said.

The biggest challenge for the Dickinson kids now might be resisting the urge to tell their friends about the new digs, which are supposed to stay under wraps until the "Extreme Makeover" episode airs.

But India said she knows they can keep the secret.

"I feel like they know how important it is now to let that be a surprise to the community," she said.

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