'Rescue' on Wimbledon

Experts joins families for renovations and to film DIY show

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By Suzy Smith
For Blount Today

Within days after moving his family to a new home, Bill Drake was diagnosed with life-threatening throat cancer.

"Our life came to a screeching halt," said Ann Drake, Bill’s wife of 10 years.

Bill endured a nine hour surgery and 33 radiation treatments which left him on a feeding tube for six months and confined to his bed for even longer.

"Our lives were put on hold," Ann Drake said. Their twins, Taylor and Madison, were 5 years old, and Bill’s son, Holden, was 9 years old at the time of Bill’s illness.

Now, three years later, Bill is healthy, and the family is ready to tackle the home improvement projects they envisioned when they first moved into the house located on Wimbledon Boulevard in Maryville.

The television show "DIY to the Rescue" is lending a helping hand.

According to the Daniel Schwartz, supervising producer of "DIY to the Rescue," the premise of the show is to help homeowners with an improvement project that they want to tackle or complete one that became too complicated for do-it-yourself types.

"Amy Devers and Karl Champley, the show’s co-hosts, along with other experts, teach homeowners the skills they want to learn while they solve real life problems," Schwartz said. "The show is not a home make-over show about luxury. It’s about values and what’s going to make a difference."

For the Drakes, the show allowed them to transform their basement into a space the whole family can use together. Prior to the show, the basement had become a junk room that the family rarely used. Toys the kids outgrew and exercise equipment cluttered the area. Also, a large humidifier that Ann had to clean and drain manually took up the kitchenette space.

"Everyone in the family was using the downstairs separately," said episode producer Melissa Cross. "The goal is to turn it into a family bonding area that all can use and enjoy at the same time."

With input from the family on their interests, the designers came up with a plan that included four zones.

"We painted the room to define the individual areas, but tied them together in one cohesive space," Cross said.

The crew helped the Drakes install the dehumidifier into the wall and hook it into the plumbing system. Now, rather than an eyesore, the dehumidifier is functional and out of the way. Now, this area serves as the creativity zone where 8-year-old Madison and her Mom can work together on crafts.

The second zone is for the exercise equipment that Ann can enjoy and will help Bill regain his strength in his neck and shoulders. The third zone will be used for the family computer and the fourth zone is the aquarium area since 8-year-old Taylor has an interest in marine biology.

"It’s been really fun," said, Taylor, a second grader at Foothills Elementary. "On a bulletin board, I painted a big fish surrounded by smaller fish."

Throughout the basement transformation, the family has learned some valuable home improvement skills.

"I’ve learned to use power tools, and the kids have done a great job painting," Ann Drake said. "It’s been kind of like a vacation for us. It’s been that much fun for the family."

The Drake’s house is a first for "DIY to the Rescue." Two episodes are being filmed at one house. The second room being transformed was a room that the design team was originally going to focus on for storage, organization and room for a game table.

"After talking with Bill, we are going to carve out an area for him," Cross said. Ann said her husband used this space to re-claim himself during the healing process. She said Bill, a dentist with a private practice in Maryville, enjoys hiking and camping. When he was recovering, he came to this part of the basement to immerse himself in the things he knew he would be able to use again.

Cross said the design team wanted to provide storage for his outdoor gear and paint the room in earth tones which he likes.
"We’re adding a few surprising touches for him," Cross said. She said they have been keeping him busy on projects in the main room so they can surprise him on the last day of filming.

The family has been involved in all aspects of the renovation. The construction of an entertainment stand was a father and son project for Bill and Taylor and Ann built the mantle over the fireplace.

Another project in the main room was adding sky panels in the ceiling.

"I’ve always thought it felt like a dark dungeon down there," Ann Drake said.

The illuminated panels made by The Sky Factory are like fake sky lights, according to Cross. "They are basically photographs of the sky," Cross said. She said the panels are installed into an existing ceiling grid and the scenes can be changed.

In addition to the Drake’s basement, the cast and crew of "DIY to the Rescue" are also completing a renovation project in the home of their neighbor, the Ken Williamsons.

In fact, it was Kari Williamson’s idea for the two families to apply for the show. Kari’s husband, Ken, has 18-year-old identical twin sons from a previous marriage. The twins have been accepted to the University of Tennessee and want to move in with their dad and Kari. To make room for the twins, "DIY to the Rescue" is finishing out their basement. Each twin will have their own space with the installation of a temporary wall system that can be disassembled later.

With the family’s help, closet space, platform beds, storage shelves and desk space are being constructed. Also, they are transforming a non-working shower into a functional bathroom.

"DIY to the Rescue" airs on the DIY network weeknights at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. With 109 episodes, the show remains one of the most popular on the network. Co-host Karl Champley is a master builder and certified home inspector from Australia. His last residential design won a state’s award in Sydney. Co-host Amy Devers has a fine arts master’s degree in furniture design. Prior to working with DIY she had a furniture design business.

The air date for the episodes from Blount County was not known. Producers said it depended on the editing process.

DIY is a part of the E.W. Scripps family of media, which also includes Blount Today.

© 2007 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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