Family's nonprofit work earns episode on makeover show

LAWRENCEVILLE - Vicki and Stu LaRoche are humble about their work with special-needs youth and young adults. But their contributions through their nonprofit organization - The Next Stop - speak for themselves, and a special nomination by one of the families The Next Stop serves is a testament to how much the LaRoches' work is appreciated.

"The Next stop is a haven for disabled young adults," said Beth Thrutchley. She and her husband, Jeff, nominated the LaRoches to be featured on the Home and Garden Television show "Deserving Design."

"(The Next Stop) is a much needed service in the community and to have one that's of such high quality is really a blessing and a wonderful service for those of us with disabled kids.

"And the LaRoches are to thank for all that," she added.

As a result of the nomination, the LaRoche family will be featured on an upcoming episode of "Deserving Design," a home makeover show on HGTV hosted by Atlanta architectural and interior designer Vern Yip.

The LaRoches received a makeover for two rooms in their home - the master bedroom and basement.

"Stu and I were surprised," Vicki LaRoche said. "It took awhile to really 'accept' this gift as it was intended. You couldn't help but get excited, but obviously we don't expect anything for what we do with The Next Stop.

"'Deserving' was not a word we were comfortable with," she continued. "However, it didn't take us long to realize that this kind of exposure for The Next Stop - not us - is what we could get very excited about."

So when Yip and his crew came to film at the LaRoches' home, the family insisted they also visit The Next Stop, where the crew spent about two hours filming.

"That, of course, was our favorite part of this whole process," Vicki LaRoche said. "No telling how much of this story can be told in a 22-minute show about design, but we're proud to show off this program."

What was it like working with Vern Yip?

"Vern was very nice and supportive of what we do," Vicki LaRoche said. "He was very likeable and easy and fun to be around. While filming was going on, he was very good at what he does, knowing the right questions and leading us to discuss things."

The LaRoche family had the opportunity to give their input related to the design of the rooms.

"We filled out a written survey of likes and dislikes, and then answered questions asked by Vern as we showed him through the rooms," Vicki LaRoche said. "The design was all Vern's concept based on what he knew of us."

How does the family like the results?

"The actual makeovers are terrific," Vicki LaRoche said. "I will have to say though that it took a few weeks to begin to think of these new rooms as ours.

"Obviously, the bedroom we are in all the time, so it feels wonderful now to be in it. We still are in the process of learning how to live within the new basement. We like looking at it all nice and neat. When we actually start using it all the time as our office and family area, it will never look the same," she joked.

According to tvguide.com, the "Deserving Design" episode featuring the LaRoche family will air at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Staff with HGTV were unable to confirm the air date.

"This whole experience has been exciting," Vicki LaRoche said, "but besides enjoying new rooms, it is our desire to bring attention to The Next Stop. So as the word spread that this was happening to us, it gave us a great opportunity to do that."

The Next Stop

The Next Stop opened its doors last September, providing socialization, recreation and continued learning to high-functioning special-needs individuals.

"When this population ages out of the school system when they turn 22 years old, their lives change in many ways," Vicki said. "Our focus is on that fact that there no longer is a consistent peer group. Not having friends, it is very easy to become lonely and isolated. The Next Stop is one of the answers to 'What happens when the school bus stops coming?'"

The LaRoches started the program with two of their children in mind, Lindsey, 27, and Tyler, 21, who both have special needs, along with the help of their son, Austin, 25.

"We wanted to provide a place that will eventually become a community center - a place where friendships can be enjoyed and personal growth can continue," Vicki LaRoche said.

The Next Stop has grown to 38 members and the group meets from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Suwanee Sports Academy.

The LaRoches also hope to involve community members in the organization.

"One of our goals is also to continue to bring our community into our program as volunteers, whether it be consistently helping the members or coming in and sharing a skill or hobby," Vicki LaRoche said.

For more information on The Next Stop, visit www.thenextstop.org.