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December 9, 2004

Home makeover family's fame lives on beyond show

From: Oakland Press, MI - Dec 9, 2004

By Christy Strawser
Special to The Daily Oakland Press

South Oakland County's most famous family is getting even more illustrious.

The Vardons of Oak Park, stars of the highest-ever rated episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC Television, flew to Los Angeles recently to participate in the Family Television Awards Show.

The show, featuring Judy Vardon and her son, Stefan, will air at 9 p.m. Thursday on the WB Network.

"We got to walk on the red carpet at the show and we actually made a presentation to Constance and Paige from (the show)," wrote Judy Vardon in an e-mail. "What an honor."

Entertainment Tonight will have a Vardon segment Dec. 13.

And the list keeps going: Stefan, tall and handsome at 15 years old, will be on the cover of TV Guide on Dec. 23 with fellow heartthrob Ty Pennington, the carpenter star of the makeover show.

Stefan was also interviewed for a coming issue of Teen People Magazine.

More than 20 million people tuned into the Vardons' episode last month, and they received e-mail and letters from all over the country after the makeover team made their house safer for the deaf parents; blind and autistic youngest son Lance, 12; and elder son Stefan, a Berkley High School freshman.

Stefan is the only person in the house who can see and hear.

Stefan Vardon won his family a spot on the show with a letter to producers that said he was proud of his tribe and wanted to make their lives easier.

It worked. Now, video cameras in every room of their house let Judy Vardon, father Larry Vardon and Stefan keep a constant watch on Lance.

The younger son has a space carved out just for him, a colorful playroom in the basement loaded with autistic learning toys.

A special security system flashes strobe lights and shakes the parents' bed if anyone tries to open a door after a new alarm is set.

Before the makeover team swooped in, the family had to constantly fret about Lance's whereabouts.

His parents can't hear him and he can't see them, so despite safeguards, Lance managed to get outside to play without supervision.

Now they can relax.

A team of 150 workers from Fairway Builders in Southfield did at least four months' work in just a few days to transform the family's 980-square-foot ranch.

It has security amenities, a new facade, stone vestibule, new front porch, lap pool, sauna and sensory garden full of soft, fragrant flowers.

Inside, there's a new kitchen with granite counters and stainless steel appliances and an open feel after the team punched out the ceilings to the rafters and tore down walls.

As part of the show, Stefan Vardon received a $50,000 college scholarship from the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Christy Strawser is a staff writer for The Daily Tribune in Royal Oak.

Copyright © 2004 The Oakland Press, All Rights Reserved