ABC taps Vermont family, will build new house for them

ATHENS, Vt. —A family that needed a break is getting one — courtesy of ABC-TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Sara and Louis Vitale, whose 2-year-old son suffers from severe birth defects, will have a house built for them so they can move out of the deteriorating former hunting cabin they now call home.

The construction will be filmed for broadcast on the Emmy Award-winning reality TV show.

"It's surreal," said Sara Vitale. "It's indescribable. Who would have thought? It's so huge for (son) Louie to have a place to grow and move freely."

"And have a place that's safe and healthy," said his father.

Last year, Sara Vitale wrote a letter to the producers of the hit show asking for help, hoping for a new home without the physical barriers of their current one.

The show gets 5,000 requests for help a week.

On Wednesday, their wish was granted. The McKernon Group, of Brandon, told them it had been selected to build the house. The material and labor will be donated, effectively giving a new home to the Vitales for nothing.

"We volunteer all our labor and we get all the materials donated," said Kevin Birchmore, vice president of The McKernon Group. "We called all our suppliers — drywall, concrete, at least 30 subcontractors — and they all agreed to donate their services," Birchmore said.

But the clock will be ticking.

In keeping with "Extreme Makeover" rules, the house must go up in 106 hours. Construction crews will work around the clock — starting Friday — until it's done.

Usually, the family having the house built for them go on vacation while it's being built. But the Vitales plan to spend their week away volunteering at David's House, an oasis for families with children being treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H.

The Vitales — he's a manager of a 7-Eleven store, she's a former waitress — are no strangers to David's House.

That's where Louie was born in September 2005. Born with arthogryposis, skeletal displasia and club feet, he is fed through a feeding tube and breathes with the help of a ventilator. He will spend his life in a wheelchair.

The show will air in late November or early December.

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