When a mother was shot and killed by a gang member’s stray bullet while sleeping, her oldest son, Johnny Garay, took in his five siblings so that they would not be separated by Child Protective Services. Although Johnny and his wife had four young children of their own, he moved this now large family—totaling 11 people—into what he could afford, a major fixer-upper in the South Central area of Los Angeles, California, built in 1905.
The original plan called for renovating the home, but the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team found that the house was beyond renovation. It was on the verge of being red-tagged because of, among other things, lack of heat, a leaky bathtub, broken windows and an old carpet so full of dust that it would give the kids frequent allergies. When the EM:HE team realized this, it was decided to completely tear down the house and rebuild it from scratch!
HomeAid America, a national non-profit organization that builds shelters for the temporarily homeless, and national residential builder Shea Homes, donated all of the time, resources and labor for the construction. Now the Garays’ home is twice its original size. One of the many challenge facing the EM:HE designers, contractors and hundreds of workmen and volunteers was to design a house that fit in with the surrounding architecture and also had enough space for the large family, which includes two sets of twins and Johnny’s autistic brother.
While the house underwent this unprecedented transformation, the Garays—Johnny, 31, who works for a non-profit agency and coaches at-risk teens, his wife Veronica, 30, and their children, Christina, nine, seven-year-old twins Iris and Johnnie, Freddy, three, and Johnny’s siblings, David, 12, eleven-year-old twins Nidia and Efren, Eric, six, and three-year-old Celina Cleto—went on a family vacation to Disney World. Seven-year-old Iris Garay is a big Miss America fan. As a special treat for her, among those present to greet the Garay family upon their return was Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap. In addition to offering some design tips, she demonstrated the famous Miss America wave.