MILBRIDGE – The Ray-Smith family heard a voice Sunday morning that likely will change their lives.
It was “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” host Ty Pennington yelling into a bullhorn, announcing that their house was about to be replaced.
“You just don’t expect that on a Sunday morning,” Ron Smith said.
The ABC show is in Milbridge for the week where crews will film an episode about Brittany Ray, her husband, Ron Smith, and their three children.
In keeping with “Extreme Makeover” tradition, many aspects of the Ray-Smith family could tug at a viewer’s heartstrings, from medical problems and piles of bills to an unreliable old home with a potential ghost.
The family also is expecting a new member soon with the addition of an adopted child from China.
“It’s very hard to even put into words what I’m feeling,” Brittany Ray said Sunday afternoon at a press conference.
Ray and Smith first met in nursery school. After attending separate colleges, they were married in 1994 and returned to their hometown of Milbridge where both now work as teachers.
School loans and other bills began adding up, and the family moved into Ray’s family home that has been passed down for generations and likely dates back to the early 1900s, according to Ray’s aunt Drusilla Ray, 63, of Milbridge.
Largely because of its age, the home is in disrepair, including an outdated septic system, no insulation, a cracking foundation, an outdated furnace that overheats, a leaky roof, freezing pipes, and electrical wiring that is a fire hazard.
On top of its structural issues, the Ray-Smith house allegedly is haunted.
According to information from Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications of Bangor, the public relations firm assisting in organizing the production locally, the resident spirit may have an affinity for sharp objects as the family has returned home to find scissors standing upright on the counter or shirt pins balanced in a circle in a candle.
In addition to the struggles the Ray-Smiths face with their home, medical bills have piled up and keep coming.
Thomas Ray-Smith, 8, has autism, and doctors say that although it’s too early to tell for sure, Joseph “Jo-Jo” Ray-Smith, 3, likely is autistic as well.
Representative of the impact autism has on the family, the building project has been named “Actions Speak Louder.”
But it doesn’t end there.
Both Ron Smith and his daughter, Bayley Ray-Smith, 11, suffer from hyperlipidemia, a condition causing extremely high cholesterol, which resulted in fatal heart attacks in Ron’s mother and brother.
Another reason the family was selected from the five finalists considered for the show in Maine was their commitment to the community.
Brittany Ray was named Maine 2006 Teacher of the Year for her work as an English teacher at Narraguagus High School in Harrington. She was the first Washington County teacher ever to receive the honor. In addition to her regular teaching duties, Ray now also serves as the high school’s guidance counselor.
During her Teacher of the Year acceptance speech, Ray said she’s not one for lots of attention or being in the spotlight.
Ray said that although she was urged to apply to graduate school after being valedictorian of her class at Colby College, she knew she wanted to teach in a rural Maine classroom like those she grew up in.
“I wanted to give back to a small community area; after all, it was the nurturing environment of a small Maine school and community that gave me the confidence and sense of self I needed to succeed,” she said in her speech. “From day one as a teacher, I have sought to give my students the skills, tools and experiences that will allow them to go forward with confidence in their abilities to succeed and work effectively in Washington County, in Maine, in the country, and beyond.”
Now it’s time for that community to give something back to Ray and her family.
“We’re so excited,” Ray said.
Access to the family and cast was limited because filming already had begun Sunday afternoon, and in typical “Extreme Makeover” fashion, the family was preparing to be whisked away to Walt Disney World in Florida for a week while their old home is bulldozed and a new one built.
Volunteers and ABC crews flooded Wyman Road on Sunday as they prepared to set up the staging, cameras and lights and begin construction.
More than $600,000 in donated RVs from Motor Home & RV Super Center of Auburn that will be used throughout the week by cast members rolled into an empty field a few feet away. Security crews set up checkpoints and barriers; and Broughman Builders Inc. met the Ray-Smith family and prepared to get to work.
“We’re overjoyed that we’re going to do this for someone in our community,” said Daisy Wight, vice president of Broughman Builders. “This is just the neatest thing that we could ever imagine.”
Monday, Sept. 10
Builder and design meetings and family moves out. No public spectator section open.
Tuesday, Sept. 11
Broughman Builders Inc. and crew march to the house and demolition begins. No public spectator section open.
Wednesday, Sept. 12, through Friday, Sept. 14
Construction under way. Public spectator section open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.
Saturday, Sept. 15
Construction completed and furniture and appliances are moved in. Public spectator section open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 16
“Move that Bus” – new house revealed. The crowd will be filmed at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. when the bus is moved.
How to help
Volunteers. Professional builders who want to volunteer to help build the Ray-Smith home may call Resa Beal at 460-1088. If you would like to volunteer in some other way, call Bobbi Harris at 546-7544, ext. 3317.
Monetary donations. Donations are being collected at all branches of Machias Savings Bank. Donations also can be mailed to Machias Savings Bank, P.O. Box 557, Ellsworth 04605. Checks should be made payable to the Ray-Smith Family Project.
For project updates, visit www.bangornews.com and click on the Reality Bytes blog icon for the latest information on progress at the construction site, in addition to information on what’s needed for donations and volunteers. Information also will be available at www.extrememakeovermaine.com and www.broughmanbuilders.com.