In 2004 the five Higgins children, aged 14 to 21, lost their mother following her brave battle with breast cancer. Three months later, their father passed away due to heart failure. The kids used their last money to pay for their parents’ funeral costs. In addition to going through their devastating loss, they had to figure out a way to stay together and continue living in the two-room converted motel/apartment that the family had shared.
If the oldest sons, Charles Jr., 21 and Michael, 19, worked full-time to care for their siblings—Sharis, 17, Joshua, 16 and 14-year-old Jeremiah—they would have to quit school, which they knew would have devastated their parents.
When the Leomiti family, who were once neighbors to the Higgins, learned that the father had died, they knew in their hearts what they had to do. Without thinking about the inconvenience of space, Phil and Loki Leomiti insisted that the five children come to live with them in their three-bedroom, 1269-sq. ft. ranch style house. With their own three children—Jaboy, 19, 17-year old twins Sina and Joshua and Loki’s mother, Seena—that brought the total number of people in the small home to 11.
The home the Leomitis offered the Higgins kids is not a temporary one. It’s to be the Higgins’ home too, with or without enough space. The Leomiti family is willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that the Higgins have a brighter outlook in life.
While the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition design team, contractors and hundreds of workers and volunteers completely demolished and replaced the original home with a design more than twice its size in a remarkable seven days, both families went on a Disney Cruise.
During the reveal, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came by to see how the homebuilder, Pardee Homes, incorporated green building standards and options that reduce energy requirements, enhance indoor air and water quality and preserve natural resources.