‘Absolutely priceless’

Published 11:45 am Saturday, March 7, 2009

When ABC “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” crews came to southern Minnesota in October to surprise the Dirk and Susan DeVries family with a home makeover, they also surprised students at Hollandale Christian School with dozens of new musical instruments.

With Susan being the music teacher at the school, the producers saw a need to bless the school with new instruments, many of which the students had never played before. Some of the students’ old instruments were homemade or were wearing out.

The day after celebrity Ty Pennington and his design crew knocked on the door of the DeVrieses’ home to tell them they would receive the makeover, they went over to the school to deliver their good news. Several volunteers were present to help in the delivery.

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Hollandale Christian School Principal Lisa Vos described what the students were like when they found out about the instruments.

“It was chaos,” Vos said. “They were so excited. They had no idea it was coming. They didn’t even know how to control themselves.”

All of the kids were gathered together in the school’s gymnasium, and designers Paul DiMeo and Tracy Hutson were asking them questions.

“We were sitting there, and we were expecting nothing,” said Kelsey Oldenkamp, 11.

The designers made the children count to three, and then the volunteers poured through the doors with all the instruments.

“I just couldn’t stand it,” Oldenkamp said, looking back. “It was so exciting.”

Producers taped the scene four times.

“The first time was absolutely priceless,” Vos said.

Susan and her family found out about the instruments while they were on vacation in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The show sent them there while, as most Albert Lea area residents know by now, Larson Contracting built them a new house. Dirk works at Royal Sports in Clarks Grove. The show aired on ABC stations Dec. 7.

Many of the students were given Hallmark cards to record messages to Susan, and they had pictures taken with the new instruments. The cards were delivered to the family in Niagara Falls. The scene of Susan learning of the donation was part of the TV show.

Hallmark and the Gibson Foundation donated all of the instruments.

While it’s taken some time to get used to the instruments and to also learn how to play some of the newer ones, the students and Susan said they are grateful for what they have received.

Susan said before she found out her family was chosen for the makeover, the “Extreme Makeover” producers asked her what instruments she thought the school needed. But she didn’t take their question seriously.

“The generosity is amazing,” she said.

“Every time we have a music class the kids learn something new.”

Jacob Jensen, 11, who plays the tenor sax, said he thinks the new instruments will allow all of the students to learn more about music.

“It is pretty cool,” he said. “We had old ones that didn’t play well before.”

Megan Bos, 13, who plays the flute, said she loves the new instruments because it gives them new ones to play that they never had before.

“I like the flutes the best because that’s what I play,” Bos said. “It’s fun. We play the songs and she lets us talk too.”