Feb 27, 2020

Average house to Extreme Home

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

Lucky Fresno family receives huge gift from reality show and valley volunteers.

Born with no legs and only one complete arm, Mary Ann Riojas of Fresno struggled in and out of foster homes throughout most of her childhood, but now she’s a television star.

On Jan. 9, Ty Pennington, host and designer on ABC’s hit reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” surprised Riojas and her four children, announcing through his megaphone outside their home that they were the lucky family receiving a new home.

Designer Didiayer Snyder said she and the other designers were inspired by all the things Riojas has accomplished with only one complete limb.

“She put herself through college, she learned how to drive a car, she’s raised four beautiful children and she’s doing it as a disabled person, because she doesn’t see herself with a disability,” Snyder said. “When you think of someone who is disabled you think of someone who is unable to do something, but she defies that myth because she’s extremely able.”

From unaccessible to unbelievable

For Riojas the new house is her key to freedom.

“When I bought this house it was just the fact of buying a home for me and my family,” Riojas said. “It’s a nice home, but it’s not wheelchair accessible or equipped for my needs.”

Designer Didiayer Snyder said Riojas couldn’t even fit through her bathroom door in the old house.

“She can’t even get her wheelchair into the bathroom. When she gets to the door she has to hop off onto the ground, crawl to the bath, put a towel down and get herself into the tub just to shower,” Snyder said.

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

With the help of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” designers and local builder De Young Properties, Riojas won’t just be able to fit through the bathroom door, but will have easier access to everything in her new home.

Jerry De Young of De Young Properties said the home would be completely wheelchair accessible.

“It has wider doors, wider hallways and turn around spaces that are five feet or more, so she’ll be able to visit every part of the house,” De Young said.

Fresno volunteers overwhelm show

In order for De Young Properties to build the home, it enlisted the help of other local companies and an overwhelming number of volunteers.

De Young said over 4,000 people volunteered before De Young Properties had to remove the volunteer menu off its website, and that in order for every one of those people to help shifts were shortened from eight hours to four.

“Those are just regular volunteers, not counting numerous subcontractors that have come forth.” De Young said. “We probably have 10 plumbers, 10 electricians and many different companies that have volunteered and we can’t use them all.

“We’re just amazed at all the support.”

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

Nick Conway, a junior business marketing major, said he and his Sigma Chi fraternity brothers volunteered because it was a great opportunity to give back to the community.

In return for doing tasks like packing up the families old items and moving in the new furniture, Conway got a sneak peek inside the house.

“One of the girls’ rooms is an Asian theme, and the other two share the room on the top floor which has a San Francisco vibe,” Conway said. “The boy’s room is a technology theme, and the master bedroom has an ‘Urban Outfitters’ feel to it.”

Riojas said she is blessed to live in a community so eager to give.

“Watching everybody get together in the community and seeing how giving and supportive they are has been awesome and touching,” Riojas said. “They offered to help not even knowing who the family was or what the need was. I’m speechless about that and I’m thankful to everyone.”

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

Extreme show

Tune in to ABC 30 on Sunday, March 8 to see Mary Ann and her family on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

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