At a time when the rest of the Castleton campus was sleeping, there was a group of students, awake and ready, waiting for their chance to change a family’s life forever.In the parking lot behind Ellis Hall, 40 or so students crowded into school vans and departed for Athens, a town far south of campus.
Their destination was the build site for Extreme Home Makeover, where they and hundreds of other volunteers and workers would be building a home for the Vitale family — a mother, Sarah, a father, Lou and two sons Kane, who is 3, and Louie Angelo Jr., who will be turning 2 this month.
Their younger son Louie, was diagnosed with several birth defects, which include club feet, arthogryposis, skeletal displasia, all of which force him to eat through feeding tube, spend his life in a wheelchair and give him extreme difficulty with breathing.
When the Castleton community heard about this wonderful child stuck in a terrible situation, they answered the call for help, and answered with vigor.
“It’s a fantastic volunteer turnout,” said Bill McGrath, a construction worker with the McKernon Group, and one of the men overseeing the build. “I never envisioned this number of people, it’s incredible.”
Perhaps more incredible is what it’s taking to get the job done. McGrath said that a job of this magnitude usually takes six months. They would be doing it in four days. To do it, they needed help. Including the McKernon Group, there are about 25 other construction companies helping to build the house, and all of the workers are going at it 24-7, with 74 people in each shift.
“We got some guys that have been working 32, maybe 34 hours straight,” McGrath said.
The construction effort certainly did not go unnoticed.
Kirk Sullivan, who has been working with the show for four seasons on shows that pertain to medical issues, loved what the McKernon Group was doing: helping Extreme Makeover build an entirely “green” house.
“This is the very first time we’ve gotten to work with a dedicated and knowledgeable green builder like the McKernon Group… so I like to say that on this episode Extreme has truly gone green,” Sullivan said
In Kirk’s scenario, being ‘green’ isn’t only about being energy efficient, it is also about being healthy. IQ Air, is a company that designs a special system to filter out many of the things that are hurting Louie Angelo Jr.
“Everyone is familiar with energy efficiency, but not the health part of a ‘green’ house,” Sullivan said, “small things like mold in the air, can kill.”
That’s one killer that Louie no longer has to worry about, thanks to the McKernon group and IQ Air.
McKernon could also be credited with bringing in the volunteers from Castleton.
It was Peter Orr, who works with them, that made the initial call for volunteers at the recent Woods Tea Company performance at Castleton. Community Service club members heard the announcement and were the ones to put out the initial email.
They certainly got a response. Along with the 40 volunteers who left from CSC in the vans, another dozen made the long drive in their own cars, just to lend a hand. The outing club also made its presence known by providing sleeping bags to the volunteers who stayed at the site overnight.
When asked why the Outing Club was getting involved, it’s president, Nick Korda said, “Why not? It’s a chance to help a neighbor. And in Vermont, a neighbor can be someone 40 miles away, it doesn’t matter.”
More information about the Vitale family, and there son Louie Angelo Jr. can be found at http://louisangelo.tripod.com. There you can learn all about him and his condition.
In addition, Louie Angelo is interested in painting, and his mother created a Web site for paintings by him and other kids with special needs at http://angelboyart.com/