Just like a scene from reality TV, a humble Kiama Downs family thanked dozens of the region’s tradies, contractors and random volunteers on Sunday for giving them a new house.
The Heffernans, a family of five, desperately needed major alterations to their house for their 4½-year-old Dexter, who was born prematurely and suffered periventricular leukomalacia, a form of brain damage. As a result he lives with cerebral palsy and impaired vision.
“What can you say to people who have essentially changed our lives?”
At 13 months he was also diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy and surgery after lesions were discovered in his liver and lungs.
“Thank you is not enough,” mum Lenice Heffernan said. “What can you say to people who have essentially life changed our lives?”
Realising the scope of work needed, Mrs Heffernan's sister, Carol Laverty, and supporter Melissa Tierney launched the Doing it for Dexter Facebook page.
The pair had hoped to find tradies and businesses willing to help out with "mates rates and love" but were inundated with offers of assistance from the building industry before work began in July.
From July volunteers gutted the family home and redesigned it to become more wheelchair-friendly, and adaptable to the future needs of Dexter.
“We’ve had a lot of tradies who offered time and donated; not just big companies but a lot of little companies too, and that means a lot,” Mrs Heffernan said.
She said opening up the house has made it inclusive and the whole family is happier and laughing more.
“We had lots of little poky rooms and that’s all been gutted, so we now have one big open living area which is great for Dexter to be a part of everything,” said Mrs Heffernan.
The family were able to move back into their home on December 12, though final touches are still being completed on the home.
Dexter currently attends Jamberoo Community Preschool while one of his sisters will also begin there in 2016. His mother said it would be nice to have they at the same school.
Mrs Heffernan said they also planned for Dexter to start attending primary school in 2017.