But now the couple, Judy and Larry Vardon, worry that the home could face foreclosure. They were featured in a two-hour episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" that set a ratings record for the show when broadcast Nov. 6, 2004.
Weighed down by a mortgage payment that has almost doubled since the makeover and medical insurance that doesn't cover autism treatment for 16-year-old Lance, the Vardons are clinging to the hope that Larry will keep his job at Chrysler LLC's Sterling Heights stamping plant. The company is on the brink of bankruptcy as it and the other Detroit automakers appeal to Congress for emergency loans.
"I'm afraid I'm going to lose my house now," Judy Vardon, using sign language through an interpreter, told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens. "This house really belongs to Lance. This is his environment. He can't speak out for himself, and I hope we can save this house."
ABC said 20.5 million viewers saw a crew led by host Ty Pennington rehabilitate the Vardons' 980-square-foot house near Detroit from the inside out, including installing cameras and flat-screen monitors allowing the Vardons to monitor Lance.
After the makeover, the couple refinanced the mortgage, and their monthly payments have nearly doubled - from $1,200 to $2,300. They had debts of $20,000 for the boy's therapy alone.
"We didn't have bad spending habits," Judy Vardon said. "My husband got laid off for a time, and insurance wouldn't cover Lance's autism therapy and some other things like his vision and special dental work."
The couple are working with a nonprofit group that aids families in crisis to help them negotiate a lower mortgage rate.
The Vardons remain grateful to "Extreme Makeover" and the volunteers who worked to renovate their house and make it safer for Lance.
"We're a close family that loves each other," Judy Vardon said. "I feel that I was given this life to show others that you can face these challenges."
Information from: The Macomb Daily, http://www.macombdaily.com