Miracle of 'Makeover' moves many
The Akana family's emotional return caps a week of activity
Momi Akana was already fighting tears before the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" buses even moved.
At the end of a weeklong vacation in British Columbia, the Akana family came home to a new 4,500-square-foot community center for their nonprofit educational organization, a 3,500-square-foot home surrounded with young palm trees and ti plants, and a warm welcome from the designers, volunteers and supporters who drove to Kalihi Valley from all over Oahu to see their reaction.
The timing could not have been better, as persistent rain stopped and clouds dissipated for their emotional arrival.
Any cynic would have been moved to watch this family of six almost collapse with gratitude, hands covering their mouths before wiping their tear-streaked faces and embracing host Ty Pennington.
Pennington then led them up to the plantation-style home and helped untie the maile lei across the entrance. Nobody but the family and ABC cameras and crew was permitted to see the interior, which is supposed to remain a secret until the show airs in September.
"It's so inspiring," said Pearl City resident Natasha Shirley, who first stationed herself in Kalihi at 10 a.m. to see the big moment, which occurred about six hours later. "It gives people hope that if you make the right choice and do the right thing, you'll be rewarded."
Her 7-year-old daughter Haylee added, "It's kind of a loving show, because they ask what kind of room you want. And they're really nice."
Brenda Gututala came from Ewa Beach for one reason: "To see Ty Pennington!" she laughed. "Forget the house!" Gututala is a devoted fan of the show, and never misses an episode because it always makes her cry. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. They are so fortunate."
Indeed, this is the 100th home built on the show, and the largest (including the community center) in the history of the series. But it took some effort.
Jeffrey Prostor, president of Brookfield Homes Hawaii, said he slept only a couple of hours each night during the one-week construction that included a team of 300 to 450 volunteers daily. He said they studied kamaaina architecture in the valleys to determine the most appropriate style for the home's surroundings. Landscaping included a taro patch created from a natural spring they discovered by chance.
"It's going to be a tremendous opportunity for the rest of the nation and the world to see us on a prime-time television special," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who painted the house over the weekend and was on hand for the unveiling. "We did what people always want us to do, and this was to expedite the permitting process. Still, we made them jump through the hoops and we didn't give them any special favors. It doesn't happen very often, but I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. And the fact that I'm from Kalihi also made it very special for me."
Those who attended the event learned a little bit about television behind the scenes. The family's reaction was spontaneous and real. But to make sure they captured it properly, the crew rehearsed. A lot. Over and over again, as the crowd waited patiently in the wet weather for the Akanas to arrive, the director shouted instructions through a bullhorn: "If you look at the camera, I guarantee you'll be left on the cutting room floor!"
An order for loud cheering came next, followed by a demand for more noise. The camera jib swooped past signs reading "Move da bus!" and "Welcome Home Akana Ohana" bouncing in time with pumping fists. Camera operators circled. The bus drivers practiced their acceleration and placement repeatedly. When the stretch limousine with blacked-out windows drove up, excitement pulsed through the audience. But it was just another practice with stand-ins to help the crew establish angles, lighting and positions.
When it finally happened, the moment seemed worth the wait.
"They've given so much to other families," said Prostor. "They'll finally be able to enjoy their own home, and all of the things they probably dreamed about."
JUNE 6: 'THE KNOCK'
Disney TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" notified the Akana family on June 6 that its Kalihi house would get rebuilt. CLICK FOR LARGE
JUNE 7: HOST TY PENNINGTON CONFERS
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
The next day, show host Ty Pennington chatted with Max McKinley, 10, and his brother Case, 8, while crews razed the structures on the lot. CLICK FOR LARGE
JUNE 7: OLD HOUSE IS RAZED
JUNE 8: NEW SKELETON EMERGES
JUNE 10: PROGRESS MOVES QUICKLY
JUNE 13: WAITING FOR THE BIG PRESENTATION
JUNE 13: THE FINISHED PRODUCT
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" house in Kalihi Valley was completed yesterday and the Akana family returned to a new plantation-style dwelling amid massive crowds and TV production. The crowds had waited for hours in the rain for the Akanas to arrive. CLICK FOR LARGE