Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

This week we're headed to Springfield, Mass. to meet a very special family, the Walkers. This is a huge week for us.  Typically we're building a house so that somebody can get around in a wheelchair or so somebody can become more independent and we can rehabilitate them, but this week we're dealing with a loss.  On April 6, 2009, Carl Walker, at the age of 11, sadly took his own life. This tragedy has really affected the family and the community.  Sadly, Carl had been the victim of bullying. People loved Carl and people still do love Carl.  I hear nothing but good stories about Carl being happy and fun loving, and creative, and caring. And to know that Carl's not with us today has made everybody take a step back and really reflect on how their actions can make somebody else feel.

The Walker Family has obviously been struggling a lot in the last year, but throughout their struggles and all their adversity they're really trying to create a big change.  They're working to end bullying, not only here in Springfield and all of Massachusetts, but globally.  There's very few people in this world that can take something as tragic as losing their son this way, and turn it into something positive.  It almost seems impossible, and I'm not sure I could do the same thing.  In the last year, the Walkers and Carl's mother, Sirdeaner, have really taken this situation and done some really beautiful things. They've passed legislation statewide, which I think is so important, and I hope that it continues to grow nationwide.  Although the family is making huge progress with anti-bullying, it is very, very clear that they can't move beyond this within their home.  They are haunted every day with what happened upstairs on the third floor, and being able to provide them with a fresh space and a fresh place, is only going to help their mission.

Every week Ty creates a challenge for us to accomplish for the family, but this week it's very different than usual.  Typically he's asked us to create something that's very tangible by designing or creating something, but this time he's really asking us to create something bigger.  Ty wants us to find 10,000 people who can all stand together and really commit to ending bullying. To have so many people standing together and really pledging against the epidemic of bullying would just be amazing.  Although trying to get our voice out to 10,000 people is going to be a challenge, we have a pretty stacked team to help us out this week.  The Trevor Project, Defeat the Label, GLSEN, Teen Angels, and It Gets Better, are just a few of the organizations that came out to help.  Several other people stopped by to help us stand against bullying, including Cody Simpson, Demi Lovato, the Kardashian sisters, and even Big Bird, Elmo, and Lela.  People all around this community have been more than eager to hold up a number, to take that pledge, and become one more person standing against bullying.  They are so passionate about not only Carl, but what the Walker Family is doing in light of all of this adversity.

This week isn't just about building a website or building a home.  It's really been about connecting with this community and hearing stories about Carl and who he was before he passed away.  I think this week has been a huge eye-opener for me, and I think that what happened to Carl has been a huge eye-opener for this community.  Not only are we figuring out how to preserve all these wonderful memories of Carl, but we're trying to let go of some of these bad memories and change the mindset of an entire community and the nation.  This family needs a little bit of a change.  They need some of that weight lifted off them.  I can imagine that a new home certainly isn't going to lift off everything, but I think it's definitely a step in the right direction.

The power of words has really hit home this week. It seems impossible that someone's simple words could drive somebody to that depth of sadness, but it's possible, and it's also preventable.  Bullying can happen to anyone and it's really important that we remember to treat people like you would want to be treated, to respect people, and to love people for who they are, no matter what.  I think that we really felt Carl's presence this week and a weight was lifted, not only off the Walker family, but this entire community.  At the beginning of the week, this situation was heavy and we all struggled with this story a lot.  We'll never forget Carl.  The Walker family will never forget Carl.  When that bus moved and the house was revealed to the family, and we saw their smiles, we realized that not only did we build them a new home, we built them a new life, and we made a big change.  I'm so happy for this family and for this new chapter in their lives and I hope that this episode only helps them continue their mission. Please join the cause and stand together. You can still sign up to take the pledge at www.standtogether.tv. Thanks and we hope that all of you enjoy the show this evening!