JETTA FRASER / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge
Mikayla Garcia, 10, is emphatic about what the new addition to her family's West Toledo home means to her: Space of her own and the chance to be more independent.
Her parents, Bob and Melanie Garcia, are looking forward to that, too.
Mom and Dad to triplets Mikayla, Robert, and Reyes, the Garcias have been straining their muscles and backs carrying Mikayla and Robert up and down the stairs to their bedrooms and bathroom every day. The two have cerebral palsy and cannot walk.
When Jason Arnold, a neighbor and board member of the Professional Remodelers Organization, approached the Garcias with the idea of building an addition at no cost to the family, it was a dream come true.
"It's something I never thought would happen," Mr. Garcia said. "We try hard to do everything, but raising a couple of disabled children is very expensive."
The 600-square-foot addition, which consists of a roomy, handicapped-accessible bathroom, two bedrooms, and a therapy area, sprang from the ground over the last two weeks and was to be ready for the Garcias to move in Monday.
"This project is something we've tried and tried to get done," Mrs. Garcia said. "When Jason came to me about it, I said, 'I just want one room. That's all I need.' He came back and showed me what he had planned out with two bedrooms and a bath, and I am just so thankful. … A thousand thank you's could not be enough for how I feel for everyone."
Sitting in her purple-colored motorized wheelchair, Mikayla doesn't have to search to find the right words. "I thank the good Lord for Jason Arnold," she said.
Mikayla, a fifth grader at Meadowvale Elementary, was looking forward to having her own room painted in her favorite color, purple, and said she hoped it would have "a cubby where I can get my own clothes. All my life, my Mommy has picked out my clothes, and I hate it."
With Mikayla moving to her own room, Reyes, also a Meadowvale fifth grader, was getting a minimakeover in the bedroom they previously shared. A Cleveland Browns mural was painted on the wall, and his mom made Browns valances for the window.
Robert, who attends Hiawatha Elementary, was getting a new room decorated in a Toledo Mud Hens theme.
"He loves the Mud Hens," Mrs. Garcia said. "When we go to the game and everyone starts cheering and yelling and they play the music and the fireworks, he loves it. He loves everything about the game."
The Garcias, married since 1999, work hard to make life as normal as possible for their children. They have taken them camping, fishing - everywhere they go. Mrs. Garcia likes to say they're "in this for the long haul" and plan to be in their newly expanded home a long time.
"People ask us, 'How long are you going to do this?' I say, 'Til the day I can't do it or the day I die,'•" she said.
Added Mikayla, "My Mommy says she'll never give up on us, never ever."
In the years since the triplets were born at 27 weeks gestation and slightly more than 2 pounds each, Mrs. Garcia said friends and other supporters have held fund-raisers to try to help the family expand their two-story home. It was never enough, though, and other needs always arose.
After Robert developed full-body tremors, the money raised for an addition was used for specialized therapy and equipment not covered by insurance.
"I'm so glad we used it for Robert. He's come a long way," Mrs. Garcia said of her son who cannot talk, walk, or feed himself.
When the triplets turned 4, Mrs. Garcia said, she started writing annual appeals to the ABC reality show Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition, but to no avail.
This summer, Mr. Arnold, who owns Arnold's Home Improvement and Solar Solutions & Skylights, approached the board of the Professional Remodelers Organization, a Toledo-based group of home improvement contractors and suppliers, with his idea to help the Garcias.
Mr. Arnold said within 10 minutes, fellow members had donated the roof, the siding, and entry door. The rest quickly fell into place.
Two weeks ago, contractors poured the foundation. At 8 a.m. Sept. 13, volunteers went to work and had the addition framed up by the evening. The mechanicals were installed and inspected on Tuesday. Drywall, paint, flooring - all the work, including a deck that connects the existing family room to Mikayla's room, were done at a record pace.
"We're on schedule," Mr. Arnold said during a break in the work Thursday.
He said a project such as this normally would take at least four weeks and cost in excess of $40,000.
Mike Shobe, executive director of the Professional Remodelers Organization, said more than 100 workers spent time at the Garcias' home and more than 60 companies donated labor or materials. Some area restaurants donated meals for the volunteers.
"Some people came through with a monetary donation to help defray costs of small items," Mr. Shobe said. "This project was 100 percent funded by donations and labor."
A supporter also made arrangements for the Garcia family to stay at the downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel during the fast-paced build.
"The people that are coming out … " Mrs. Garcia said.
" … are phenomenal," Mikayla said, finishing her mom's sentence. "They're angels."
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