This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
South Jordan • When Ty Pennington said, "Move that bus!" on Wednesday, Jessica Gomez was moved to tears.
Gomez cried, covered her face and fell to her knees as she got her first glimpse of her new home, which was constructed in a week by the ABC series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." At the same time, her 7-year-old son, Jonah the reason the Gomez family was selected to be on the show raised his fists over his head and flashed an impossibly cute smile.
"That's the sort of thing that keeps us smiling and keeps us up around the clock to do these builds," said executive producer George Verschoor.
A few thousand friends, volunteers and complete strangers gathered at the Daybreak development on Wednesday for the unveiling. In accordance with the show's tradition, the family Jessica, Jonah and 5-year-old Ellie stood behind the bus while the crowd cheered, then cheered louder when the bus pulled away.
Sure, they were cued about what to do by the show's staff, providing a reasonable facsimile of reality for the reality show. But it was all for a good cause.
Pretty much the entire Real Salt Lake team was on hand after adopting Jonah as their cause last year. Jonah suffers from sickle hemoglobin D disease and pyruvate kinase deficiency. He has undergone open-heart surgery, and he's waiting for a bone-marrow donor.
"Nobody's more deserving than Jonah," said RSL defender Chris Wingert. "He's such a great kid. He's already been [through] so much."
RSL played a part in getting the Gomez family on the show.
"Real Salt Lake was on the [nomination] tape that came to us," said Verschoor. "And that was really unique in this story. Here's this little boy who's suffering from this disease who's been adopted by this professional soccer team these heroes in the city who have championed this kid and they just made a plea to us."
RSL and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" also teamed up to get people to sign up as bone-marrow donors at Saturday's game at Rio Tinto Stadium, adding more than 1,000 people to the registry. Across the country, thousands more signed up at other soccer matches.
Ancestry.com also got into the act. They've tracked down more than 100 of Jonah's living relatives in hopes of finding a donor.
The Gomez family had been living with Jessica's parents; this is their first home. Holmes Homes, Daybreak and thousands of volunteers teamed up on the construction and design.
There were a few obstacles.
Verschoor didn't want to give away too many details of what's inside the house that will be revealed when the episode airs this fall but there was one feature that "didn't fit in the stairs. We had all hands on deck trying to figure that out in the midst of trying to put in all the landscaping and all the room themes. There's a lot going on."
"There's always something challenging. There's always something that pushes us to the point of thinking it's just not going to happen."
The show is keeping the object secret until the episode airs (probably in September or October), but there was a soccer-related surprise inside the house for soccer-obsessed Jonah.
"This is a one-of-a-kind that is something we are just thrilled with," Verschoor said. "And Ty has been working on it all week. He's very excited about it. He's done over 190 of these builds for families, and he is just like a little kid this week with this idea for Jonah and Ellie."
Suffice to say that the show provided a way for Jonah to engage in his favorite sport without going outdoors.
"He can play in the house and be a kid, but do it in the proper temperature and have access to oxygen should he need it," Verschoor said. "Because his doctors say staying active and healthy is one of the best medicines for him."
Become a donor
P For information about how to sign up as a bone-marrow donor, go to getswabbed.org. All it takes is one page of information and a cheek swab.