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Local

Carey-ing out an Extreme Makeover

Seneca High graduate volunteers on set of ABC show

Kevin Carey, a graduate of Seneca High and a new Illinois Wesleyan University student, poses for a photograph on the set of ABC's "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." Carey was among 15 IWU students who volunteered Saturday at the homesite in Philo, Ill.
Kevin Carey, a graduate of Seneca High and a new Illinois Wesleyan University student, poses for a photograph on the set of ABC's "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." Carey was among 15 IWU students who volunteered Saturday at the homesite in Philo, Ill.

As he set off for college and a week of orientation at his new school, Seneca Township High School graduate Kevin Carey knew he would have new experiences at Illinois Wesleyan University.

As he settled in on his new campus and started learning his way around, he dutifully opened his school e-mail to find a request from the office of residential life for volunteers for six community service projects.

As a former Seneca FFA member and Grundy County 4-H member, Carey said he knew the importance of leadership and giving back, so he hurriedly responded to one of the opportunities that only had room for 15 students.

"I've volunteered at soup kitchens and for Habitat for Humanity with 4-H and church, but I never worked on something of this level," he said.

After a week of orientation, Carey spent his first Saturday at college on the set of the ABC television show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition."

Carey and the other students from IWU headed to Philo, Ill., a town about nine miles south of Urbana, where a family was in the middle of receiving a new home from the television show and Illinois Wesleyan alumnus Ed Brady, owner of Brady Homes.

"The family wasn't there, but we know it was a man who has had no paycheck since April, and he runs a food pantry," Carey said. "They tore down his 1,200-square-foot home and are replacing it with a 2,800-square-foot home and a new food pantry building."

Chosen for the new home, according to a press release, was the family of Nathan Montgomery, a former engineer who gave up a lucrative career to start the pantry Salt & Light, which provides food, clothing, and ministry to around 250 families in and near Philo.

Carey said he and his schoolmates arrived at the homesite at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning and spent the next seven hours helping out around the house with what they could.

"We carried bricks in, cleaned up garbage, and served lunch to the workers," he said.

Carey said he has watched the show when he could, but the live set was much different than what the viewer sees.

"Michael, Michelle, and Johnny from the show were there," he said. "Ty and the others were at another home in Washington, because they do two shows at one time."

Carey said cameras are rolling on the home 24 hours a day, so keeping the work areas clean is an important job that others don't have the time to do, so he was happy to help.

"I may not have been the number one person there, but I helped to give a small piece of this house back," he said. "They have to rely on volunteers to take care of that."

Through the course of the day there was chaos and, while all of the television team we see on the show weren't there, their designers were, carrying out their designs.

"You don't feel like your on a TV show," he said. "TV has a hyped up energy that we didn't see."

"We weren't there for TV though, we were there to volunteer," he added.

He said while he felt it was similar to Habitat for Humanity, he liked that it was on a national level.

"4-H and FFA taught me to step up and try something new," he said. "I knew it would be rewarding in the end."

He said when he laid down on his pillow Saturday night, he new he had been part of something good.

"This was on a more-mature level than before, but I still feel when I went home, I had done something good for someone else."

He said they are scheduled to "Move that bus!" on Tuesday, although the students won't be on the set for that.

"While I know they are deserving, it would be nice to make a one-to-one connection with the family," he said.

The show is set to air in October.

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