Watson Family Daniel and Mandy Watson are not only the proud adoptive parents of three adorable, fun-loving kids with boundless energy, they're also inspiring examples of how people can make a difference in the lives of so many others. Having both been raised by single mothers, the Watsons work tirelessly to transform the lives of low-income, single mother families through housing and by providing the tools to succeed in life... all while their own home falls apart around them. Four years ago, they left their jobs and created the Restoration House, a non-profit organization that provides single mothers with housing at a local apartment complex, as well as the tools needed (mentoring, advocacy) to be confident, self-sufficient and productive members of their community. This passionate young couple fight hard for their dream of 'restoring' the lives of single mothers and their children in Knoxville, Tennessee, where over 5,000 single-mother families live below the poverty line. Their mantra, "It Takes a Village," has helped many single mothers and their children transition to successful lives, both financially and personally. But their own home is in such bad shape that it threatens to take them away from their non-profit and imperils their dreams of expanding the program to help even more single moms. The Watsons decided to forgo having biological children and adopted Atley (6) and Ava (5) as newborns from single mothers in the Knoxville area, as well as baby Silas (1) from Ethiopia. Both Ava and Silas were at-risk adoptions, as Ava tested cocaine positive when she was born, and Silas was found abandoned in the bushes at two days old, suffering from neonatal tetanus and on the verge of death. Now all three children are healthy and playful, brimming with joy and mischief. Daniel works tirelessly at the Restoration House as Executive Director, but also works a second job at night as a web developer to pay the bills. Even though Mandy is now staying at home to take care of Silas, she spends countless hours helping the mothers in the program. The "EM:HE" design team has just seven days to build a new Restoration House that's larger, with additional living quarters where they can house two single mother families at a time while those families go through the Restoration House program.
Zdroj Family It was fitting that the Zdroj family settled on a property next to The Heart of Pines Volunteer Fire Department. Mizzy Zdroj had long dreamed of being a firefighter just like her hero, her grandfather. The Zdroj family practically lived off of the land, growing their own food and trying to live a "green" lifestyle. Mizzy kept a small art studio in a camper on the property, and made money by selling the dolls she crafted by hand. A small wildfire in the area quickly raged out of control - becoming what is now known as the Bastrop wildfire, a fire that consumed more than 34,000 acres - the largest wildfire in Texas history. While Mizzy Zdroj and other unpaid heroes from the volunteer fire department fought the flames, more than 1,600 homes, including the Zdroj family's, burned to the ground. They family not only lost their house and belongings, but Mizzy's livelihood as well when her farm and art studio went up in flames. Currently 71% of all fire departments nationwide are volunteer departments. These volunteers risk their lives just like the heroes who are paid, but use old gear or equipment they bought themselves. It's usually firemen who are giving back to their communities through toy drives and food distribution during the holidays. THIS year "EM: HE" will give America's Bravest the biggest Christmas gift ever - a new home for the Zdroj Family and a dream renovation for the Heart of the Pine Fire Department. The "EM:HE" design team has just seven days to build a brand new home for the Zdroj family, as well as remodel the firehouse for the community of volunteer firefighters. The Zdroj family has been whisked away on a coast-to-coast Christmas Vacation - first to New York for a Christmas celebration, then off on a big surprise visit to a very special location on the west coast - while "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" team leader Ty Pennington, designers Paul DiMeo, Tracy Hutson, John Littlefield, Jeff Dye and local builders EFC Custom Homes, as well as community volunteers build the structure and Meyerson Custom Builders, L.P. renovate the fire house.
Harris Family On February 19, 2007, while on patrol in Iraq, a massive IED struck the truck that SSG Shilo Harris was traveling in. Despite suffering devastating injuries, with burns to over 40% of his body, Shilo's only concern was for the wellbeing of the men under his command, refusing medical treatment until he'd been assured that his troops were out of harm's way. During the months of painful surgeries that followed, Shilo and his loyal wife, Kathreyn, found a true calling - to help wounded warriors through the agonizing and traumatic processes of recovery, rehabilitation and learning to face a life that will never be the same. Shilo, once sufficiently healed, began a career as a motivational speaker, giving hope to others similarly wounded, while Kathreyn, taking up the cause as well, began working for the Army Wounded Warrior Project. Shilo and Kathreyn have dedicated their lives to giving back. With each day that passes the Harris family put more distance between themselves and the event that changed their lives, but their home still stands as a reminder of their struggles, as it cannot protect Shilo from dangerous dust and heat. The family have tried everything to make the home comfortable and safe, but whatever they do, it's not enough. This hero who was disfigured in service to his country cannot find respite in his own home. J.R. Martinez, actor, motivational speaker and former U.S. Army soldier, makes a special appearance, and country music superstar Lee Greenwood performs "God Bless the U.S.A." in this moving holiday-themed tribute to our wounded veterans.
Friday Family A nine-year veteran of the police force and foster mother to over 30 children, Devonda Friday and husband James didn't think twice when they got a call to provide temporary care to a boy being transferred to a group home. They had no idea this call would change their lives. The teenage boy showed them a video of his siblings, begging them to help keep the five of them together. Before they knew it, Devonda and James were making room for all the youngsters to join their own two children. In her career as a police officer, Devonda had repeatedly seen kids mistreated. She had her "aha" moment when, on a call, she saw a little girl bleeding from her cheek, and knew she had to do something to help the children of her community. She immediately called her husband, and they decided to become foster parents to give kids like that little girl a fighting chance at a better life in a loving home. But in 2005 Devonda was viciously attacked; it took her a year to heal physically. However other doors also opened for her: She switched careers, got a degree and, over the years, along with James, fostered dozens of children, raised their own biological child and adopted another youngster. In May 2010, they met Chris, the oldest of five siblings separated in the foster care system. The first night they met, Chris showed the Fridays a video that social services had created of the younger siblings to encourage their placement. This was a life-changing moment for the Fridays, and they began their journey to adopt all five children. Initially their request was turned down because their modest ranch home didn't have enough room, so the Fridays converted their carport into two makeshift bedrooms and sold their van to offset expenses. The adoption was finalized in 2011. Now "EMHE" will celebrate the spirit of Christmas by giving the Friday family a new spacious home for the holidays. The "EM:HE" design team has just seven days to make this home even more of a haven for the Friday family, who have been whisked away on a dream vacation to Jamaica while team leader Ty Pennington, designers Michael Moloney, Jillian Harris, Ed Sanders and Paige Hemmis, local builder Bellamy Homes, as well as well as community volunteers, build the structure.