Society

‘Move that bus!’

Popular ABC show ends nine-year run building wounded South Texas soldier a new home
By MARIE BAKKEN
Reporter Staff Writer

What was suppose to be a quick trip to San Antonio with my brood to see my oldest sister’s family, turned into an experience that will stay with me for a long time.

The popular ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and host Ty Pennington have traveled around the country helping give families a new lease on life by building them new homes.

Well, after nine seasons the show is ending its run and in doing so the design team has built its last house last week and it happened to be near Floresville, Texas, about an hour south of our original destination of San Antonio.

Also while down south, we had planned on visiting Blake and Katrina Starr. Blake and hubby Buck were roommates when both were stationed in South Korea during their stints in the US Army about 10 years ago.

It so happens the Starr’s know the Shilo Harris family, who benefited from the Extreme Makeover’s final home.


Gordon Hartman (left), president of Morgan’s Wonderland who built the project, holds the key to the new home. 
Reporter/Marie Bakken Gordon Hartman (left), president of Morgan’s Wonderland who built the project, holds the key to the new home. Reporter/Marie Bakken WOUNDED—It has been almost five years since a massive IED struck the truck Harris was riding in while on patrol in Iraq with his Army Calvary unit. Harris’ face was severely burnt, along with over 40 percent of his body.

He was in a coma for 48 days and does not remember much of what happened until arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Due to his severe burns and disfigurement, the dry, dusty Texas climate makes it hard, sometimes unbearable, for SSgt. Harris (ret.) to live in his own home, as he has a difficult time regulating his body temperature.

NEW HOME—Helpinga- Hero.org is a non-profit organization that builds homes that are adapted for wounded heroes and their families. The homes are adapted to the military personnel’s specific injuries and needs.


SSgt. Shilo Harris (ret.), wounded while serving in Iraq, along with his daughter Lizzy, wife Kathreyn and son Glen react after seeing their brand new house (below) built by HelpingaHero.org and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It was the show’s last project after nine years on the air. The new home was built in Floresville. 
Photos courtesy of Jerstad Photographics SSgt. Shilo Harris (ret.), wounded while serving in Iraq, along with his daughter Lizzy, wife Kathreyn and son Glen react after seeing their brand new house (below) built by HelpingaHero.org and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It was the show’s last project after nine years on the air. The new home was built in Floresville. Photos courtesy of Jerstad Photographics The group selected the Harris family to receive a home last August at its annual gala where former First Lady Laura Bush, presented him with a key symbolizing the promise made.

HelpingaHero.org then joined forces with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to build a home for the Harris family.

As has been with the 212 other families that the show has helped over the last nine seasons, Shilo, his wife Kathreyn and young children Lizzy and Glen were whisked away on a dream vacation while the design team, along with hundreds of volunteers build a new home in just seven days.

WONDERLAND—When choosing a builder for the project, the TV show went with someone who understands about giving back and those with special needs.

Gordon Hartman, created Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio after a family vacation with his daughter Morgan, who was a special needs child and seeing the need for a safe place for those who couldn’t get around like normal kids do. Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre and the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park designed for those with special needs in mind and built to be enjoyed by the public as well.

The Harris family home is the first time in nine seasons that the TV show chose a non-profit group to take the lead in the project.


Above, the show’s host and member of the design team Ty Pennington greets other wounded soldiers who came to the home reveal on Saturday night south of San Antonio. At right, 11-year-old Rebekah Canady holds up one of many signs that spectators brought to the welcome home party for the Harris family. 
Photo courtesy of Jerstad Photographics Above, the show’s host and member of the design team Ty Pennington greets other wounded soldiers who came to the home reveal on Saturday night south of San Antonio. At right, 11-year-old Rebekah Canady holds up one of many signs that spectators brought to the welcome home party for the Harris family. Photo courtesy of Jerstad Photographics While on the home building site Saturday night I got to meet Hartman and he is one of the nicest, most caring people I have ever met.

“We love what we do,” he told me. And he doesn’t necessarily do what he does for money, but because he sees a need for those who have a hard time helping themselves.

There were others there who had visited Morgan’s Wonderland and he listened with sincerity while visiting with them and their families, just as he did with a group of wounded warriors which were at the reveal as well.

My family and I will be visiting Morgan’s Wonderland the next time we go to San Antonio.


Reporter/Marie Bakken Reporter/Marie Bakken WORK FIRST—Of course when filming began there were a lot of behind-the-scenes things going on. Lots of filming and re-filming shots. Many of the almost 1,000 people there at were there to help a family and build a house, not for publicity.

I really respect that. They made it all about the Harris family.

WOW!—After a long week and very long time of standing for this special event, the Harris family made their arrival and the show’s trademark phrase, “bus driver, move that bus” was shouted, with the family getting to see its new home. What a special and emotional moment.

Small towns and giving hearts are a wonderful thing. Through fund-raising efforts that went on during the week throughout Wilson County and also in the San Antonio area, enough money was raised where the Harris’ mortgage and property taxes were taken care of. Also, with state-ofthe art technology, a solar panel and fund-raising effort, the family will not have to worry about utility bills for a while either.


Over 3,000 volunteers worked to help build the Harris family a new home in just seven days. 
Photo courtesy of Jerstad Photographics Over 3,000 volunteers worked to help build the Harris family a new home in just seven days. Photo courtesy of Jerstad Photographics The Harris’ will continue to give back to the community who helped give them a new home as well as to other wounded soldiers. That is just something instilled in them.

Katrina Starr said as long as she has known the Harris family they have always used their experiences to help others.

“They’ve both been dedicated to give back to wounded warriors,” Starr said. “They want to help them understand that you can get back to a normal life.”

So in the words that Pennington would use to end each show:


Shilo Harris was in a coma for 48 days after the truck he was riding in was hit by a massive IED and exploded during a patrol in Iraq. He suffered burns over 40 percent of his body. Through rigorous therapy and recovery he is now a motivational speaker, hoping to help other soldiers recover from wounds they suffer while serving in action. 
Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland Shilo Harris was in a coma for 48 days after the truck he was riding in was hit by a massive IED and exploded during a patrol in Iraq. He suffered burns over 40 percent of his body. Through rigorous therapy and recovery he is now a motivational speaker, hoping to help other soldiers recover from wounds they suffer while serving in action. Photo courtesy of Morgan’s Wonderland “Welcome home, Harris family. Welcome home.”

The episode with the Harris family reveal will air sometime in the fall.


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2012-01-26 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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