When Stefan Vardon, 14, wrote a heartwarming school essay about his deaf parents and his blind and autistic 12-year-old brother, he had no idea that it would lead to the team from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” showing up at his family’s Oak Park, Michigan home.
In the first hour, “Vardon Family, Part 1,” viewers meet Judy and Larry Vardon, who can’t hear their son Lance, and he can’t see his parents using sign language. This is not just a matter of inconvenience; Lance’s safety is also a concern, for sometimes Lance has found the house keys and let himself out in the middle of the night without his parents’ hearing him leave. The EM:HE team knew they had to find a way to make the family safe, as well as find the best way for them to communicate with each other—a real necessity for when Stefan leaves for college in a few years.
In an essay that Stefan had written – and which Judy included in the application for the show—he said: “I always have to sign to my parents in order to communicate, and always talk nicely to my brother for him to understand. I am so used to this life, it’s just that sometimes I wish I had a normal family and didn’t live this way. But the next day I am so happy that I have a loving family that treats me nice and loves me.”
Judy volunteers with blind and deaf children teaching Braille and sign language, while Larry is a welder for a car manufacturer who, in his free time, fixes his neighbors’ cars too, for free and without a garage to work in. Stefan, a nature lover, plays football in high school and is a car fanatic. Larry is a musical prodigy who likes Elvis, Beethoven and Mozart, as well as horseback riding.
In the second hour, “Vardon Family, Part 2,” the Vardons come home after a week-long vacation on Mackinack Island. They returned to a completely remodeled home equipped with the latest in assisted living technology. At the “reveal,” actress Marlee Matlin presented Stefan with a $50,000 college scholarship check from the Starkey Hearing Foundation. She also sat with Judy while she got her hearing tested for the first time in 20 years. Amazingly, Judy found she had residual hearing and was a candidate for a hearing aid.