Pool Photo: Phil Skinner — Bill and Stacy Halstead wheel their son Tripp up the custom ramp to get a first look at the makeover by Sunshine on a Ranney Day done to their Jefferson home on Saturday.
JEFFERSON -- When she could verbalize a word, Stacy Halstead said it was a shock.
With tissues in hand, and hundreds of supporters watching on a large video screen parked in the family's new driveway, in between rain showers, Stacy, her husband Bill, and their son Tripp made their first tour through their remodeled house on Saturday in Jefferson.
"I don't know what I pictured," Stacy said on her front sidewalk, "but it's way better."
The event was made possible by a Roswell nonprofit, Sunshine on a Ranney Day, formed by Holly and Pete Ranney, a year ago almost to the day, to help families like the Halsteads who have experienced personal tragedies that forced them to need new living arrangements. In this case, Tripp needed a wheelchair-accessible house as he recovers from a critical brain injury suffered more than eight months ago.
It was a far cry from the house the family purchased in March after it was foreclosed on.
"You would never know this is the same house, whatsoever," Bill said.
Added Stacy, "From the house we bought, to what's in there now, unreal."
The general contractor on the project was Danny Phillips of Ideal Interiors in Suwanee, who was nicknamed "peacock" during the project because, working with designer Jennifer Crosby, he wanted to "spread his wings."
Phillips, Crosby and the Ranneys worked with more than 120 other businesses who donated all aspects of the remodel, from appliances, to pictures and bath towels.
"The Halstead family, they're just an amazing family," Phillips said. "They're so inspirational. They're down-to-Earth people. The ability to do a project for such a worthy and deserving family, it felt so good."
The event drew several hundred people who have followed updates on Tripp's Facebook page, which counts more than 794,000 "likes." The Jefferson Fire Department brought a ladder fire truck, and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Jefferson Police Department assisted with crowd control. A disc jockey and band entertained the crowd, and a cake decorated in a "Cars" movie theme, Tripp's favorite, was enjoyed near the end of the event.
The New York man, Dave Nazaroff, who raised more than $150,000 for Tripp by riding a bike from New York to Jefferson, was also at the event.
Emotions were visible throughout, starting with Crosby, who has three children.
"This could have been us," she said, as she recalled a range of feelings and emotions. "How much I love my family, and what they're going through."
Holly Ranney said a theme throughout this project, and their nonprofit, is to "pay it forward," and she pointed out a "Pay It Forward" movie poster donated by a Facebook friend that hangs in the basement autographed by stars Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.
Holly Ranney said the nonprofit has grown in large part because of her connection with the Halsteads.
"Half the people on our team we met through the Halsteads, and now they're like our best friends," Holly Ranney said. "Tripp Halstead has brought a lot of people together. It's such a tragedy what happened to him, but all the good things that have happened since then, and pulling everybody together to do good work, is just amazing."
Tripp was overwhelmed by the festivities, Stacy said, after he made it through two rooms of the tour. That's why his parents think Tripp knows what's going on, she said.
"We love him so much and just want him to be happy," she said. "And I think he is."
Before they walked through the front door, Bill Halstead said it would symbolize, "leaving all the bad stuff behind."
And as they toured the house, they saw a specialized bathtub and bathroom for Tripp, and a therapy room labeled "Tripp's Recovery and Repair" another nod to the "Cars" movie.
A recent focus for his therapists has been to gain better control of his head, Stacy said. The parents were asked if their son could return to the vivacious toddler many remember, and more have come to know through family pictures.
"Yes, we don't know how long he'll be in a wheelchair," Stacy said. "But we want to believe he'll get back to that point."There's also an electric chair along the stairwell so Tripp can get to the basement to spend time with his cousins, who are nicknamed "the crazies," by his mother. The basement also featured pictures of family and friends on the walls and in the ceiling tiles.
"We can't wait to put our roots down in there and start living in it," Bill said.
"Tonight," Stacy added.
But one of the more emotional parts of the tour came in the kitchen when they found the table and microwave lowered so Tripp could reach them in his wheelchair.
"Now that he's more aware of things, he wants to go with us," Stacy said. "So when we eat, he wants to eat."
As Bill and Stacy neared the end of the tour, Holly Ranney had a question for them.
"So you like this?," she said.
"Oh yes," Stacy said. "More than like. You can't describe how grateful we are."