On Nov. 26, the Tennessee Theatre hosted a viewing of an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" which took place in northwest Knoxville. The episode was filmed 11 months earlier and captured how the designers, crew and 4,000 volunteers built an estate for the Watson family.
Daniel and Mandy Watson lead a charity named The Restoration House of East Tennessee, a charity focusing on helping low-income single mothers. The Watson's submitted their application to the show's producers more than a year ago in October of 2010 for the chance at a new house for not only their growing family, but also their growing charity.
"This has been a really overwhelming experience and we're looking forward to sharing it with you tonight," said Daniel Watson before the live viewing of the show. "This journey has really changed our family's life and it changed the course of the direction for The Restoration House."
Since the "Extreme Makeover" crew restored the Watson family home, the family's charity has grown; having purchased more land, the family is now in the process of building The Village. This new area is where 24 single mother-family homes are being built, set to open in March 2013.
"When we were working through this process with 'Extreme Makeover,' we thought that at the end of the day we want this more to be about Restoration House than our family, so it's going to be really cool to see how they did that in the show," Watson said. "At the end of the day, what we stand for is single mothers and their children. We were both raised by single moms and we know that struggle. We want a new future for those families; we don't want them to struggle."
Since the show was taped in late January, weather conditions were not going to be great, and then the week it took to build the house was also a week full of snow, sleet and hail in Knoxville. Sarah Gregory, a senior in American studies who helped with the build, said the building process was draining and that the weather conditions did not help.
"I stood underneath rafters while working on grouting and cut my fingers in the process. I nearly broke one of the main windows being used for the house, and I think I got in the way of the professionals numerous times," Gregory said. "The weather was miserable, I don't recall a night quite as cold as this one was, but everyone was in such good spirits that all of these things didn't seem to matter."
The viewing party was hosted by Kristin Farley and Tearsa Smith, both WATE News anchors, and began with their behind-the-scenes coverage of the hard work that went into the house with their "6 Around Town" program, which aired on "Good Morning Tennessee."
Gregory, who did not get the chance to meet the Watson family, or the crew, since they were sleeping while she was working, said she appreciates the work The Restoration House does.
"I am very passionate about women's issues, and I think it is very important to help working single mothers support themselves and their children while also aiding them in becoming engaged citizens of the community. I feel it was necessary to help the Watson family with their housing situation so that they can further their mission with The Restoration House," she said.
Mayor of Knoxville Madeline Rogero attended the viewing party, and in her speech to the crowd she stressed the importance of community values.
"I'm proud to be mayor of a city (that's) willing to sacrifice so much to help its own," Rogero said. "Knoxville has a tight knit community, we're a welcoming community and we support each other, we've shown it time and time again and I saw this spirit of giving and helping others being demonstrated during this 'Extreme Makeover' build."
Gregory, who volunteered from 2 to 8 a.m., mainly worked on grouting rock walls, removing trash and construction scraps from the inside of the house and moving building materials. She said if she had another opportunity, she would volunteer, even with the harsh weather.
"Very rarely does one have the opportunity to participate in a large-scale service project which benefits such a deserving family," Gregory said. "It was a really unique experience to be part of such a large production that was directly benefiting members of the Knoxville community. They are such a deserving family, and everyone involved in the building process was so excited to be able to help them out."
Rogero said that the "Extreme Makeover" project had the full support of the city, and since the house was built in January has seen the positive effects it has had on The Restoration House and the entire community.
"This project showed our strength, determination and dedication to help others, and I was honored to be a part of it," Rogero said. "Tonight I am proud for the nation to see what we can do when the Volunteer state and Knoxville come together."