PRO, Southview High School unveil more accessible home for local studentWritten by Matt Liasse | | email@example.com
Val Taylor has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, epilepsy, asthma, glaucoma and spasmodic torticollis. And she’s an inspiration to many at her high school and in the community.
So much so that her classmates at Southview High School dedicated their Dance 4 A Chance (D4AC) fundraiser to help her family make their home more handicap-accessible. D4AC was started in 2004 and has raised more than $150,000 since then. Every year, students identify an issue and work to raise awareness for that cause through their fundraiser.
“We identified Val as somebody we’d really like to help,” said Dave McMurray, principal of Southview High School.
Back in September, Toledo Free Press reported the only door Val’s wheelchair could fit through was the front door, and whenever she wanted to leave the living room, her parents had to carry her.
“Our circumstances weren’t the best,” said Veronica, Val’s mother.
Students raised more than $30,000 during this year’s D4AC. They called the outcome Project HAVEN, standing for “Home Accessibility for Val’s Exceptional Needs.”
“We looked at her house and we wanted to make it a much better place,” McMurray said.
But the school didn’t stop there. They contacted the Professional Remodelers Organization (PRO).
“We were approached by Southview High School one week shy of a year ago and they asked us if we could do anything for the family,” said Executive Director Rick Morel. “We went planning from there, trying to decide how to do it.”
The organization then announced this case would be the year’s recipient of its annual President’s Project, which connects remodelers to community projects.
Veronica was scared to get her hopes up on the plans.
“They came to me and I said, ‘Well, okay. But I’m not going to get real excited because things don’t always work out for us,’’’ she said. “But here we are.”
But since the house had a faulty foundation, Morel saw it would be no easy task.
“We thought we could just add on to their original home,” he said. “We made the joint decision that it had to be torn down and we’d have to start from scratch.”
PRO, formerly known as the Toledo Home Remodelers Association, is made up of local businesses that specialize in home improvement.
This is the second largest project PRO has been a part of, the first one occurring in 2010 called the Garcia Project. Morel said it wasn’t “nearly as intricate as this one was.”
Sixty-five days of work later, at the President’s Project Reveal Celebration on Nov. 9, the Taylor family returned to their now brand new home. In an event that included extended family members, neighbors, teachers, classmates and Southview cheerleaders, the family was welcomed, not unlike the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
With the cheerleaders chanting “People in the know always call a pro (the PRO slogan),” Val, Veronica and father Tom made their way to the red ribbon, which Val cut herself.
“Words cannot even express how I’m feeling right now,” Veronica said. “I’m overwhelmed, overjoyed. I couldn’t believe that there was this many people here. It is completely unbelievable.”
The new house is an increase in square footage, from 540 to 1,533, Morel said. It also now has a paved driveway, a great room, a bedroom for Val with a bathroom and a room for Val’s parents.
“Val’s exceptional needs: this house is going to meet them,” said PRO President David Rumpf at the event. “This family is going to be so comfortable here.”
Rumpf, who is self-employed, was so busy that he became unavailable to clients during the time it took to build the house, Morel said.
“There’s not a whole lot of people who can do that; it was just amazing.” Morel said.
Taking all supplies and volunteer labor into account, the total cost of the project is easily more than $150,000, Morel said.
“We had over 100 companies and individuals combine efforts to get this done,” Morel said.
The event concluded with Rumpf handing over the keys to the house, an emotional moment for Val’s parents.
“It’s a reality,” Veronica said. “Everything we’ve talked about has really come true. This is ours now.”
McMurray thanked everyone for their support.
“You’ve made a difference in one of the best students that we have at Southview High School,” he said. “And I can say she’s one of the best students because she has never been to my office in trouble.”