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"Extreme Makeover" Unveils New Home

Kathleen Lutz gets emotional as thousands of spectators cheer for family.

Come the season premiere of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" in October, Sunday's events will have been cut down to about 15 minutes of heartwarming "reality" television.

However, what unfolded Sunday at the Lutz residence on Ringneck Lane in East Setauket actually spanned a ten-hour time period that the show will never air in its entirety.

Spectators began gathering before 8:00 am on the front lawns of the houses across the street from the Lutz family, and the crowd grew steadily. Hundreds of blue-shirted volunteers and red-shirted Alure builders scrambled to put the finishing touches on the new two-story home topped with a large glass atrium. After surprising the Lutz family last Sunday with the announcement that it would be rebuilding their aging home, East Meadow-based Alure Home Improvements demolished the original home on Tuesday and spent the next five days rebuilding as fast as possible.

By 1:30 pm all the caution tape had been removed, all the debris had been picked up and tossed in a dump truck, and several final pieces of furniture had been moved inside.

Alure spokesman Seth Selesnow initially estimated the family would arrive around 2:00 pm, and as that time approached, the cameras were indeed rolling. Backed by cheers from the growing crowd, the Stony Brook University flag squad made its way down the street, followed by SBU's cheerleaders and marching band. Behind them came the "Extreme Makeover" bus and then, finally, the stretch taxi-limo that would eventually transport the Lutz family to their new home. The limo, however, was empty this time as this was just the first of several set-up shots.

It would be another two hours before the bus would roll in for the last time. At that point, an ABC representative grabbed a bullhorn and praised the local volunteer effort.

"When people around the world see this in the beginning of October, they'll see the volunteer spirit is alive and well on Long Island," he said.

At 4:15 pm the limo arrived in front of the bus, this time carrying Kathleen Lutz and her six siblings with Down Syndrome.

With ear-to-ear smiles on their faces, they exited the limo to the sounds of the loudest cheers of the day. At 4:27 pm, chants of "Move that bus!" arose from the crowd and the bus obliged, pulling away and revealing the Lutz's new and improved home.

As Kathleen Lutz cried and embraced Alure president Sal Ferro, some of her siblings jumped up and down in excitement. Several minutes later, the Lutz family entered its new home to more cheers, and the crowd began to disperse.

Selesnow said approximately 3,000 volunteers and close to 500 builders contributed during the week. Although he couldn't say how much the project cost in total, he said it was funded mostly through donations.

Not far away from Ringneck Lane, another East Setauket event drew sizable crowds on Sunday: the Ward Melville High School graduation ceremony.

Ringneck Lane resident and high school senior Paula Stefany Delgado, 17, had the chance to hang out with the "Extreme Makeover" crew during the week, and watched spectators pack her front lawn over the past few days. Her family opted not to throw her a graduation party on Sunday.

"They said if we were to have a party they could figure it out for us," Delgado said of the show's management. "But we just put it off."

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