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Ky. volunteer firefighter gets home 'makeover' - 9/8/2009

By Joy Campbell
The Messenger-Inquirer

MACEO, Ky. — Steven and Melissa Mattingly and children Madison and Alana of 249 N. Chestnut Grove Road in Maceo will receive a new home — in less than a week — courtesy of the ABC reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The family was picked from five contenders and received a knock on the door Saturday morning from the show's host, Ty Pennington.

"This is just amazing," Melissa Mattingly said as she and her family hugged Tommy Thompson and the Thompson Homes builders Saturday evening during a news conference.

Thompson Homes is overseeing and implementing the intense construction effort that will involve hundreds of community volunteers, including skilled construction laborers.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us. ... The people, compassion, love and the community pulling together to do this ... It's, well, I'm almost speechless," she said.

Each episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is a complete story in which a team of designers, contractors and hundreds of workers "race against time" to build or rebuild an entire house for a chosen family.

Steve Mattingly, 41, is a Yelvington volunteer firefighter, and his wife, Melissa, 38, is an EMT. In December 2007, he was directing traffic at the site of a garage fire when a driver didn't see him and struck him at full speed.

Melissa Mattingly was driving by the fire scene and rushed to help her husband. He suffered brain damage, injuries to his right hip and knee, and memory loss. He's had seven surgeries and drives to Louisville three days a week for physical therapy.

"We had been putting back money to build a house," Steve Mattingly said. "A couple of months before the accident, we were talking about moving some dirt and starting to work back here."

Their savings were quickly used for medical and other bills after the accident.

Thompson told the family that he and his builders are "proud and humbled to make a difference in a family's life here in Daviess County."

Around 3 p.m., about 250 tradespersons and volunteers showed up for what the "Extreme Makeover" show calls the "Braveheart Walk" to meet the family. That kicks off the weeklong event.

"You thought your dream had evaporated," Thompson said. " ... We're here to say that dreams do come true."

On top of Steve Mattingly's injuries, the couple's children both have medical problems. Madison, 11, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the spring and also had surgery on one of her hands, which was injured in an accident. Alana, 12, recently had a partial knee transplant and is still recovering.

"My wife has been having to schedule all of that," Steve Mattingly said.

Steve and Melissa Mattingly said they could not have survived after the accident without their parents' help.

"The home will be theirs, free and clear, through donated services and local support," Thompson said. "These are not the best of times, but people put their problems aside to make this happen for this family."

Thompson called the project a "huge undertaking."

The Mattinglys' current 700-square-foot trailer will be demolished and the team will build a 3,200-square-foot home with a large deck on the site and landscape the yard.

The project includes adding a new septic and drainage system.

"It's a big challenge," Thompson said.

The builders and television producers are not revealing all of the details of the home yet. They want the family to be surprised .

"Extreme Makeover" producers send their featured families on vacation while the home construction takes place. The big finish comes when the family is brought back home and the show's big bus is moved to reveal the new home.

The Mattinglys left for the Bahamas on Saturday night. Both Alana, 12, and Madison, 11, said they were looking forward to a vacation and coming home to a new house. They will return Friday.

Melissa Mattingly said her family was truly surprised when they heard Pennington's trademark wakeup call, "Good morning, Mattingly family!"

"I thought it was a dream," she said.

The excavation began Saturday and was set to continue through the night. Huge lights were set up at the site, and a staging area for meals was set up down the road.

Thompson said he knows the experience will change his life and the lives of those who work on the project.

"It seems like you all are going to make our lives a whole lot better," Steve Mattingly said.

Several close neighbors in the tight-knit community in what neighbors call "the Hills" of North Chestnut Grove Road gathered along the road early Saturday morning looking for confirmation that their friends would get to trade their single-wide trailer for a spacious new home.

"A lot of people know Steve," said Mike Noble, who lives at 367 N. Chestnut Grove. "He wouldn't be in the shape he's in if he hadn't been doing something for us."

Noble's wife, Chrissy, and Steve Mattingly graduated from Daviess County High School in the same class.

Security team members began walking the road shortly after 9 and told neighbors they would be restricting access to North Chestnut from each direction while the show's crew, staff and star filmed the "door knock" and other scenes.

"They're a well-deserving family," said Melinda Payne who lives nearby on Kelly Cemetery Road.

Once the big bus carrying Pennington and others arrived, excitement began to build with more neighbors arriving. A few rode their bikes closer to the top of the hill to get a better look at the bus parked on the road in front of the Mattinglys' home.

Steve Mattingly's parents, Sam and Sandra Mattingly, live next door to their son. They, too, had to stay away while the filming took place. Both sat on their porch — thankful for the gift their son would be receiving and anxious for him.

"I'm nervous and excited," an emotional Sam Mattingly said. "It's a wonderful, blessed event. ... and sort of like winning the lottery. ... I just wonder what my boy is doing. It's emotional for our baby."

The Mattinglys' older son, Scott, lives on Kentucky 662.

The couple said the accident changed their son's life.

"I'm happy; I just wish he'd never been hit," Sandra Mattingly said.

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