Former Shocker baseball star Carl Hall said he'd entered "kind of like a fairy tale" Thursday as the recipient of the next "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" house, being built from the ground up for him and his family near K-42 and Maize Road.
The television show surprised Hall and his family Thursday with an official announcement that they would be receiving the house, even though they'd been involved in preliminary plans for the show, and many of the hundreds of people who turned out to cheer them on at Wichita State University seemed to already know the news.
Hall, who starred on some of the strongest Shocker baseball teams in school history and was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 1994, was paralyzed from the neck down after a traffic crash in Kingman County in June. He, his wife and four children had to move out of their bi-level house in west Wichita because it wasn't suitable for a wheelchair and have been living in a rented two-bedroom duplex with a converted garage since.
That was the fact Carl Hall returned to many times when discussing the new house Thursday afternoon.
"It's going to give me a lot more independence," Hall said, but more often he referred to the fact that his family has been living in close quarters and he wants them to have more room.
Also giving a glimpse into the life he's been living was his particular delight that six staff members from Craig Hospital in Denver had been brought in to care for him for the next several days, including when the family takes a vacation to Orlando, Fla., while the house is being built. Hall has spent rehabilitation time at the hospital that exclusively treats spinal cord and brain injuries.
The fact that the Halls would get a new house was not the surprise Thursday, but the timing was, Carl said.
He said he thought he was going to give a talk to the WSU baseball team when he was taken to Eck Stadium on campus earlier Thursday. But instead, he and his family were informed that they would be the recipients of the next "Makeover" house. Ty Pennington and other members of the show's staff, local volunteers in blue T-shirts, WSU students and staff, and members of the public who had gotten wind of the event showed up to surround the family and cheer them on. Television-show cameras recorded it all — and then recorded it again when a redo was called.
"I don't trust them from here on out," Carl Hall said jokingly of the people who had made the announcement a surprise —"especially making sure the kids found out."
Carl, 40, and his wife, Stacey, have four children: Megan, 16; Madison, 14; Logan, 11; and Mclaine, 9. They headed home from WSU to prepare for the next event: a news conference where they answered questions.
"Makeover" designer Paul DiMeo tossed a football around with the Hall kids outside their duplex near Maple and Maize Road before Carl came out and the whole family stood around him in the warm late-afternoon sunshine.
"I'm a little overwhelmed by everything that's happened today," Carl Hall said, and added that he was humbled.
He thanked all the people who have been helping him and his family, the WSU contingent who came out in support Thursday and those who were volunteering to build the house.
He said he did not apply to be considered for "Home Makeover" and still did not know exactly who had nominated him. But he'd also heard that the show had heard from many people on his behalf.
Stacey Hall said she is "a big planner," so she's had to make a big adjustment in having no control since Carl's accident and now with the show making all the decisions about the house. She did say that, mysteriously, the house is being built on a spot that the Halls had wanted to build on if they ever had the money. Their old house is up for sale.
"Every feeling is running through my body," Stacey Hall said. "I'm overwhelmed, just in a week to be overwhelmed again.
"I am nervous, but I'm excited at the same time."
Fundraising has been ongoing for the family, and money from that has gone to help pay for the 24-hour care that Carl requires.
"I don't think anybody knows how much that costs," Stacey Hall said.
She said she was looking forward to a week from now when the family can begin "a new normal for us."
"It's going to be a long road to recovery," Carl Hall said. "You can't change what happened but you can try to determine what's next."
Work on the house, at 11026 W. Hollywood Court, started Thursday and will continue around the clock until it is finished next Thursday. Access roads to the house are closed to the public. Volunteers are still needed to work on the house, lead builder Bob Cook said. Volunteers can register online at wichitaextreme.com.