Updated 04/16/2012 05:17 PM
Demolition begins on Johnson Family Home Project
There was no Ty Pennington or megaphone. But there was a lot of fanfare on the lawn of the Johnson family Monday, as hundreds of Syracuse firefighters and other volunteers started their own extreme makeover on the family's Tully home. Our Kat De Maria has the story.
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TULLY, N.Y. -- Windblown and overwhelmed is how Diana Johnson describes the feeling of watching dozens of volunteers tear apart her family's home.
The scene looked like it belonged on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” And that's where Syracuse firefighters were hoping to see the Johnson family's story. But when Ty and company were cancelled, the firefighters and other volunteers decided to do it themselves.
"We honestly felt there were lots of families who needed it more. Tried to talk the fire department out of it," Diana Johnson said.
"We never asked for anything and all these people decided they're going to fix up my house," Dave Johnson said.
Dave and Diana's modesty is genuine. As Chief Mark McLees put it, everyone on the lawn for day one of the Johnson Family Home Project Monday was there because of their love for the retired deputy chief, his wife and 29 children: Natural, adopted and fostered.
"My parents are wonderful. They do what they can when they can. You don't know where the next...where you're going to get food sometimes, but it always came through," said 29-year-old Andrew Johnson, who says he's the sixth of the 17 natural and adopted children.
Keeping the house up to date lost out to food and other necessities. So the firefighters and others lovingly hacked away at the Johnsons' past to make way for a roomy, well-insulated future.
"Dave Johnson was part of our fire family. Could not find a more deserving or generous benevolent family," McLees said.
The Johnsons are staying just a few miles up the road while construction is going on, day and night. If all goes well, May 7th is the date they should be able to come back and move into their new home.
"We love each other. The same family who moved out is going to move right back in. So we'll just go on from there," Diana Johnson said.
"This is my family. And to us it's not an amazing thing," Dave Johnson said.
If the Johnsons don't seem completely comfortable with the help, it's because they're not, but they're getting it anyway, not from TV, but from the people whom they have inspired and overwhelmed with their love.
Volunteers have a website and Facebook page for the Johnson Family Home Project and will be adding a registry for people to donate finishing touches.