Producers of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" rallied hundreds of supporters Tuesday night, asking for help as the reality TV show prepares to shoot in Beaufort County next week.
"This is a lot like the barn-raising in the 1900s where really, the entire community has to come together to make it happen," said Milan Vasic, a senior producer with the show.
Families, children and contractors packed into the sanctuary at LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton and spilled into an overflow room with a video feed. Organizers estimated that nearly 1,000 people attended the pep rally.
"If this is any indication of the support that we will get next week during the build, I think we're off to a really good start," said Todd Hawk, owner of H2 Builders, which is leading the local construction effort.
The reality TV show, which uses volunteers to rebuild the home of a needy family, will film an episode somewhere in Beaufort County from Jan. 12 to Jan. 18.
At the pep rally, organizers registered volunteers to help with the build and raised funds by selling T-shirts printed with the phrase "I am a weapon of mass construction." The money will help pay off the mortgage of the family chosen for the shoot.
Several area families are being considered, and the show's crew is working on designs and architectural plans. But producers won't release any information until they can surprise the family on camera.
"We are, at the end of the day, a reality television show, and you only get one take," Vasic said.
Vasic talked about the history of the program, introduced members of the design team and gave Beaufort County residents a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to rebuild about 25 homes each year.
"We actually have two full production teams at work simultaneously," Vasic said. "While we're filming here, we're going to actually have a show that starts four days later in a neighboring state."
The whirlwind schedule means that local construction crews have only 106 hours to finish the job.
"With all of the planning that our team has done, and all the people who have stepped up, we are still going to need every person in this room, along with many more people, to show up next week," Hawk said.
He urged volunteers to visit the website of the local build, www.extrememakeoverbeaufortcounty.com, to volunteer or donate.
Fans of the show -- even from hours away -- have been planning trips to the build site since the local shoot was announced. Many say they never imagined they'd have the opportunity to participate.
Debbie Taylor, a Bluffton resident who came to the pep rally with her husband and daughter, said they've been watching the show "pretty much since it started," but never guessed an episode would end up in her backyard.
"We always hoped," Taylor said. "We never thought it would come right here to Beaufort County."
Vasic said the enthusiasm Tuesday shows Beaufort County was a good choice.
"It really does show us that we're in the right place," Vasic said. "And it gives us, as producers, a lot of comfort when you see the kind of turnout that we had tonight."