A frenzied crowd wearing bright blue T-shirts and white construction hats leaned forward on barricades chanting, “move that bus.” Camera operators and production assistants raced up and down the lines filming the cheering faces, finally settling on the Dickinson family.
The Dickinsons, wiping tears from their eyes, had just been reunited through satellite uplink with the family’s father, a U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant serving in Afghanistan. Emotions were high for Bill and India Dickinson and their five children, ages 1 to 16.
This was the big moment.
As the RV bus pulled away to reveal a pristine two-story, plantation-style complex – a complete replacement of their former dilapidated home in Beaufort, S.C. – the Dickinsons again broke down in tears. Anticipation, which had been building for the family ever since they were contacted by the management team at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, gave way to an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, of relief, of hope realized.
However, the house was only part of this family’s surprise courtesy of the popular TV show, which garners roughly 10 million viewers. Host Ty Pennington next introduced President P. George Benson, who explained to the still-shaking family that the Dickinson children would receive five full, four-year scholarships to the College.
“Extreme Makeover transforms lives, quite clearly, for people all over the country,” President Benson acknowledged, “and we wanted to transform some lives as well – not just with a home, but with education. We are thrilled to be able to do that.”
Judging by the family’s emotional reaction, the opportunity of a College of Charleston degree for the Dickinson children meant just as much as the house.
“This takes so much off our shoulders,” a beaming India Dickinson said. “To know now that, as soon as our kids graduate, we know where they’re going to college.”
With the new house, the white-picket fence and a chance to study at the College, the Dickinsons are well on their way to realizing the American dream.
Note: The episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring the Dickinsons and the College will air on a Sunday night in late March.