By Marisa Jackels, lead writer at Tellwell
Photos Courtesy of CCRI
Brad is the first to greet us when we walk through the door.
“Hi guys!” he yells from his spot in the kitchen, where he is resting his legs next to his wheelchair. “Am I going to be on TV?!”
We laugh. No, this time the story is for a magazine.
“Ooooh!” chimes in Lane from the couch, breaking into a wide grin.
By this point, Brad, Lane, and their two other roommates David and Greg are used to the attention. Known as “The Guys,” these four became (and maybe were already) local celebrities through the community-wide efforts to build them a new home — a campaign from CCRI (Creative Care for Independence) called Build 4 The Guys. You may have read the initial story in the November issue of Fargo Monthly. Since then, the story has been spread through various media outlets and word of mouth across the community, making for a campaign whose results have astounded the CCRI team, according to CCRI Development Associate Anna Larson.
“We did not expect the fundraising to be this close to done by now,” Anna said, looking around at the new house.
The CCRI leadership team learned in the spring of 2018 that the four guys, who have lived together for over 10 years, were facing some challenges in their old house. Brad, who has arthritis and neuropathy in his knees, was finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the tight corners and small kitchen in his wheelchair. David is losing his range of motion as he grows older and was having trouble accessing his bedroom in the basement. Both Brad and David regularly requested to take a bath, and yet the downstairs tub was difficult for David to use and impossible for Brad.
The CCRI caregivers knew that these four were like brothers. Lane, the self-proclaimed leader of the house, calls them “my boys.” He and David have been friends since they were kids, and all four of them have lived as a family for over a decade. For CCRI, the idea of separating any of them was unthinkable.
Unfortunately, a new house for the four guys was not in the budget. They knew they would have to depend on a community-wide effort to make it possible. Thus, the #Build4TheGuys campaign was launched. And the community response was incredible, Anna said.
“We needed $347,000 to make it happen, and now we have just under $100,000 to go,” Anna said, shaking her head with a smile. “We set some lofty goals, and the community showed up.”
Local media ran stories introducing the guys, and sharing their need for a new home. New donors from Texas, Virginia and all across the nation started following the story and donating to the campaign. News stations that Anna hadn’t even reached out to showed up to cover the story.
“It was amazing,” Anna said, laughing.
Meanwhile, the CCRI caregivers began preparing “The Guys” for the big change. The thought of leaving their familiar home was hard; but with time, they understood that this was the best way to keep their family together — and add a lot of fun surprises, too. As construction of the new house began, CCRI caregivers drove the guys by the new build to check on the progress. Day by day they watched as the frame went up, then the walls, the roof, the windows and doors.
And day by day, the word spread that this was no ordinary home. As the crew behind the build learned that this was a house for CCRI, for four very special guys, many of them began offering discounted work and in-kind donations. Cross Insulation heard the story and offered in-kind insulation for the whole house. Fabricators Unlimited made an in-kind donation for the Corian countertops, sinks, and cabinet pulls for the whole house.
ABC Supply Company, Ace Hardware, Cabinets Unlimited, Carpet Garage, Custom Design Plumbing, Diamond Vogel, Drywall Supply, Furniture for Less, Hohenstein Homes, Innovative Air, J&L Shelving, Lacho Drywall, Rigels, Sign Pro and YHR are just a few other companies that lent their own specific talents and resources as in-kind donations to make the guys’ house possible.
When the house was nearly done, CCRI volunteer Angie Koenig offered to use her passion for interior design to decorate. She shopped for months to find special offers, and over the course of a weekend, she filled the home with planters, vases, art pieces, baskets, rugs, and signs like “Home Sweet Home.” She also decked out David’s art room with some of his favorite art supplies; a string of buckets filled with markers, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and crayons. Already, the shelves are filled with David’s popsicle stick houses and original paintings.
Each of the guys got their own customized room as a surprise. Brad, a lifelong Vikings fan, got a purple room with a Vikings bedspread that says “Skol” in big white letters, and team decor on the walls. David has a brightly colored room, with vinyl on the walls of a rainbow and a bicycle — one of his favorite things to draw. Greg requested a Johnny Cash room, with red walls and a black bedspread. Lane’s favorite superhero is Batman, so his room features a Batman bedspread and blue walls. Jason Johnson, CCRI Facility Manager, even created a “hidden door” for Lane’s bedroom to make it more like the Batcave.
Needless to say, when the guys visited their home for the first time, they couldn’t stop smiling.
“I love it,” Lane said. “We have a huge kitchen. I have a Batcave. I’m here with my three boys.”
Despite temperatures plummeting below zero with blizzard conditions to boot, friends, family and neighbors from across the community showed up to celebrate at their first open house event. Lane’s friends from his favorite Taco John’s showed up with free tacos for everyone. Other friends from the
nearby Holiday gas station, where Lane goes to get a Diet Mountain Dew on the regular, showed up as well with a gift card for each of the roommates.
“People kept asking, ‘what else do they need?’” Anna said. “I kept saying, ‘Nothing! You built this!’”
The first thing you see in the guys’ home is a collage on the wall: the letters L, G, B, D, surrounded by photos of the four guys with each other, with CCRI caregivers and other favorite memories. The wooden floors are heated, and there’s plenty of space for Brad to move around in his wheelchair. The living room is surrounded by comfy couches and armchairs; you might see Lane and Greg watching Power Rangers or some of their other favorite movies. There are two bathrooms; one with a walk-in shower for easy access, and the other with the highly-anticipated easy-access bathtub. According to the CCRI caregivers there, Brad and David have been taking baths nearly once a day.
In fact, in the middle of a tour of the house, we hear a giddy yell from Brad — “I’m going for my bath!” — as he wheels his way towards the bathroom, a wide grin across his face.
In the kitchen, a memento from their old home hangs above the sink — a wooden sign that reads: “What I love most about my home is who I share it with.” Thanks to the community, that is one thing that won’t ever change. For the four friends, this is their new forever home.
“This new home is a testament to where we live. The community truly comes together when something needs to be done,” Anna said. “It’s an amazing place to be.”
For the guys, what’s important is that they’re together.
“We’re family,” says Brad. “And family stays together.”