UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Summer 2009
[move that bus]
The Super Bowl of Homebuilding
Brothers go to extremes for Fresno family, providing them with unveiling of a lifetime
by Ryan T. Blystone
PHOTO BY LA BELLA VITA PHOTOGRAPHY
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Brothers Brandon and Ryan De Young say that being part of TV’s Extreme Makeover was extremely gratifying.

T

he door of the limousine opened onto Fresno’s East Robinson Avenue. One by one, the town’s newest VIPs emerged. They were home, but they didn’t yet realize exactly what that meant. A larger parked vehicle was positioned to shield their new house from their view. Then the Riojas family shouted in unison, along with 6,000 onlookers: “Move that bus!”

Faithful viewers of the hit ABC-TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, know all about that phrase and its accompanying moment of truth. (Note to the uninitiated: it means a new home, built from the ground up in 106 consecutive hours, is ready to be shown to a deserving family.)

This particular revelatory moment was aimed squarely at Mary Ann Riojas, a single mother of four teenagers who has lived her entire life without legs and with only one fully functioning arm. But the unveiling was also an epiphany of sorts for brothers Ryan ’03, ’04, and Brandon De Young ’07, along with their parents, Jerry and Paula, owners of De Young Properties.

The De Youngs’ homebuilding company — along with 4,000 volunteers and the team of the TV show — built the 3,200-square-foot, two-story pumpkin-orange home in less than a week. As well as being fully furnished and decorated, this particular extreme makeover included environmental and energy-saving features and incorporated standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We enjoyed the family’s reaction to the house as the bus departed to reveal their new home,” says Brandon De Young, vice president of operations. “Our family was standing behind their family, so their reactions were obscured to us at the time. But as we watched ‘Move that bus!’ occur on film, the varying expressions from the family members of surprise, delight and tears of joy were extremely gratifying. Seeing their faces glow with excitement and appreciation made the long hours and stress from this project worth it.”

The show’s crew, ably led by host/carpenter Ty Pennington, chose De Young Properties to lend a hand to a deserving Fresno, Calif., family in November, but the company didn’t know just who they’d be building for until Jan. 8. That’s when Pennington emerged from the bus to shout, “Good morning, Riojas family!” into his trademark bullhorn.

“It was a truly humbling experience for our company to be asked,” says Ryan, vice president of finance. “The Riojas’ story motivates everyone. She’s overcome incredible obstacles. Her story teaches us all to stay positive and keep going.” Riojas has been an inspiration to others, especially children, with physical disabilities. She grew up in Easter Seals-sponsored programs and later worked as an ambassador for the organization before landing her current job with the local housing authority.

Ryan and Brandon understood that being responsible for the rapid-fire construction effort would impact their business, big-time. The episode, broadcast nationally on March 8, was seen in 70 countries worldwide. “This was the Super Bowl of homebuilding for us,” Ryan says.

Despite the intense schedule, the De Youngs didn’t compromise their building standards, but they did get a big assist. A special hot concrete mixture for the foundation enabled workers to begin construction after only three hours instead of 28 days. Team-work among the volunteers — which included USD graduates Erin Parnagian ’04 and Andrea Machado ’03 — was essential.

“The first night on site we had electricians, ventilation workers, framers, inspectors and others. It’s not normal to see so many people working all at once, but I’ll never forget walking around the house and seeing everyone with smiles on their faces,” Ryan says. “To have that many people working together to get the project done was wonderful.”

It sounds like everyone feels right at home.