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'Extreme Makeover' wows Catholic family

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VICTORIA, Texas - Seven-year-old twin sisters Tara and Sara Kubena, diagnosed with leukemia when they were 3, received a big surprise when they found out their family had been selected to receive a new home designed by the team of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Highlights

By Cindy Brewer
Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)
2/10/2006 (1 decade ago)

Published in Home & Food

The show's host, Ty Pennington, and others from the series announced the surprise to the family Jan. 17. A week later John and Monica Kubena and their four children - Tara and Sara have two other siblings, Brady and Kelly - were presented with a 4,200-square-foot home on the same property of the two-bedroom trailer home where they had been living. The home is equipped with special features to help the girls' medical conditions. The episode featuring the Kubenas, who are members of Holy Cross Parish in East Bernard, was scheduled to air Feb. 19, 8-9 p.m. EST. "We used a lot of color; we went above and beyond," Ed Sanders, one of the home's designers, told The Catholic Lighthouse, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Victoria, Texas. "We didn't need to do it, but we have (given them) access to all the technology, and with all the pain (Tara's) been in, you're darn right we're going to go all out," he added. The Kubenas have been inundated with medical bills over the past few years. After the girls were diagnosed with their disease, they underwent chemotherapy treatments and their cancer went into remission. Last year, Tara's leukemia returned and she had to undergo a bone marrow transplant at Texas Children's Cancer Center in Houston. For more than 100 days after the transplant, Tara was required to stay at the hospital, where she was joined by her mother. Although recently she was free to leave the hospital, her home's conditions were not up to the standards for a girl whose immune system was nearly destroyed. That's where "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came in. On Tara's 102nd day after her transplant, the show's producers made the announcement that the Kubena family had been selected for a home makeover. In January 2005, Tara's aunt, Laura Kubena, sent a letter to the television show telling the Kubena family's story and explaining why they need a home makeover. The show, which airs on Sunday evenings, receives nearly 15,000 requests per week. The Kubena family was chosen from the thousands of others who sent in letters and tapes because "they're such a worthy family," according to the show's staff members. The new home could mean the difference between life and death for a cancer patient whose immune system is working at only about 10 percent capacity, said Tara's oncologist, Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, who said it is so important to remove the viruses from the air in Tara's home. "It is best when (recovering patients are) around filtered systems," she said, noting that "a virus that wouldn't do anything to one of us could kill (Tara) because of her weakened immune system." More than 1,000 volunteers from Houston, East Bernard and surrounding towns worked to complete the new house in 106 hours; a house this size would normally take six months to build, according to Royce Builders, a Houston building company that led the project. A team installed an air purifying system into the home and more than 100 vendor partners donated labor and supplies. When the home was unveiled to the Kubena family, a crowd of nearly 2,500 people, more than the population of East Bernard, were on hand to welcome them. High above the new house flew a plane pulling a banner that read "Welcome Home Tara." Local schools let out early so students could attend the home's unveiling. A special place was reserved for the second-grade classmates of the twins, as some in the crowd had waited overnight for a good spot. The television program also donated a new Ford hybrid SUV and a vacation for the family to use once Tara is healthy enough. And, to top it off, an anonymous donor donated the cost of the house's taxes and insurance for 10 years. Royce Builders has been requesting donations for Tara's medical expenses on its Web site - www.extremeroycebuilders.com. The company has collected more than $90,000 and planned to continue to accept donations until the show aired. Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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