'Extreme Makeover' rally draws 200 volunteers

The crew from "Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition" made its presence officially known in Wichita on Thursday night, holding a two-hour long pep rally at Central Christian Church at 29th North and Rock Road.

About 200 people showed up to volunteer for the project, watch slickly produced promotional spots featuring celebrity host Ty Pennington, and listen to a lengthy presentation from senior producer Milan Vasic.

Producers of the ABC reality show, now in its eighth season, announced last month that the show would come to Wichita to build a house for a deserving family.

The chosen family, whose identity is still a secret, will be surprised on Thursday and will be handed the keys to their new dream home on Feb. 24 — just 106 hours later.

The pep rally was designed to raise community interest and also to raise donations. Vasic and his team of project managers and designers already dispatched in Wichita asked for volunteer labor as well as donations of furniture, lumber, tempered glass and gift cards to stock the house with towels and dishes.

"You guys don't need us to make a difference in your community," Vasic told the crowd. "But we definitely need you."

The event started with an address from Bob Cook, the owner of Derby's Bob Cook Homes. Cook's company is leading the project. (And Cook has apparently earned the nickname "Bob the Builder" from the production crew.) He thanked a long list of people and companies contributing to the process, including an RV dealer, a mortgage broker, a roofer and an insurance company.

The super-fast build will require 2,000 people working 24 hours a day, he said.

"I've always felt that with the opportunity to live and work in a community comes a certain responsibility to step forward when possible," he said. "We have an opportunity to help a deserving family to get a new start in this community." At rally's end, the crew went over the process people here should follow to get involved.

First, they should visit www.wichitaextreme.com, a Bob Cook Homes-sponsored website that lists what skilled laborers are still needed (trim carpenters and framers are at the top of the list) and a list of times that unskilled laborers will be needed.

Those who show up will be directed to a parking area then will need to sign a liability release and an appearance release so their images can be used on the show.

Workers will be issued the show's signature blue T-shirts, a hard hat and safety glasses. They're asked to bring their own tools and wear appropriate clothes and footwear.

Spectators are welcome, too, and will be shuttled from a designated parking area to a spot where they can watch the build progress.

This will be the third visit the reality show has made to Kansas.

In 2005, the show built a 3,800-square-foot house for Rose Hill's Kevin and Cathy Nutsch, whose house had been destroyed by a propane explosion earlier in the year.

Then, in November 2008, the show built a house for war veteran Patrick Tutwiler of Chapman, whose house had been destroyed by a tornado.

He and his wife put the house on the market a year later, saying that their neighbors had suggested they were unworthy of the house and prizes that came with it.

The family moved to Texas.