THE OREGONIAN (September 6, 2010) – Students and their families from the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem stand in front of the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” bus after finding out Monday that their school will be getting a makeover. ABC’s feel-good reality TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” rolled into Salem on Monday, surprising students and staff at Oregon School for the Deaf‘s back-to-school picnic with news that the campus will get upgrades as part of a Halloween-themed episode scheduled to air Oct. 31.
Well, it was a surprise to some, anyway.
Breanna Burton, 20, who has siblings at the school, got wind that the TV series might give OSD a makeover last week when show representatives visited neighbors living near the school to warn about the sounds of carpentry and bright lights at night during the project, which culminates in an unveiling of the renovated space next Monday.
Burton’s mother, Lorie, was told to pack bags for herself and her two OSD student children, Breyda Tavizon and Bradey Burton, who will travel with about 120 students and parents to the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Bill Austin, who manufactures hearing aids through his Starkey Laboratories, grew up in Garibaldi and launched the Starkey Hearing Foundation in 1984. Starkey will donate 400 hearing aids to members of “the extended OSD family,” Austin said Monday while taking a break from working on ear impressions for one of his custom-made devices.
OSD, which celebrates 140 years of education this year, holds a haunted house fundraiser in the basement of its boys’ dormitory, but the space, which has a dirt floor, needs renovation. That’s where designers from the ABC series and construction crews from the community, led by Salem’s Rich Duncan Construction, will concentrate their efforts.
“People going through kick up dirt and the kids are coughing for days afterwards,” Lorie Burton said. “There had been talk about taking some funds and putting in a concrete floor.”
Odds are good that’s part of the “Extreme Makeover” plan, although no one has shared details of the design team’s intentions with Ed Roberts, the OSD dorm counselor who founded the haunted house 23 years ago.
“They’re keeping me at bay,” he said Monday, a smile across his face, “but I’ll be here all week for the build.”
In addition to renovating the space, the “Extreme Makeover” crew is expected to bring some Hollywood effects to the haunted house as part of what series star Ty Pennington dubbed “Extreme Makeover: Haunted House Edition.”
Pennington and several other cast members emerged from the show’s signature bus, which had been kept in hiding on a distant part of the OSD campus until the big reveal. Pennington and his co-stars bounded onto a stage to cheers and the American Sign Language motion for applause: raised hands shimmying back and forth.
On television, the arrival of the bus will look like one seamless event, but the reality of Hollywood production called for multiple takes to capture the entrance from multiple angles. “Extreme Makeover” producers call it a “re-surprise.” The bus backed up and came barreling in for a second take as Pennington and designers Michael Moloney, Paige Hemmis and John Littlefield once again got off and ran up to the stage.
“We’re helping out with the haunted house, so it might get a little scary this week,” Pennington said, hamming up the word “scary” to entertain the crowd.
On the third take, just before 3 p.m., all eyes moved from the bus on the ground to a plane in the sky that pulled a banner bearing the greeting, “Good Morning, Oregon School for the Deaf!” Of course, thanks to the magic of reality TV, viewers will not know the “good morning” banner actually flew in the afternoon.
OSD director Patti Togioka set the wheels in motion for the “Extreme Makeover” visit a couple of years ago when she sent the show’s producers a 250-word e-mail asking for the show’s assistance.
“I never expected anything from it,” she said. “I still feel in shock. Can you imagine?”
In the past, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has renovated or rebuilt homes for families, but in the new season that begins Sept. 26, the show expands to schools and community organizations for some episodes. The two-hour season premiere features the construction of a building for students of Baltimore’s Boys Hope/Girls Hope program, which offers a place for children from difficult, at-risk backgrounds to live in a safe environment.
The Salem project is not the first time the ABC series has come to Oregon. In July 2007, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” renovated the home of a Corvallis-area family.
— Rob Owen