Monday, February 11, 2008

Oprah and Nate help a family taking on raising three nieces get a "dream house"


Today, Oprah Winfrey presented one of her most moving stories over. It was an “extreme makeover” done by Minneapolis-raised Nate Berkus and his design company from Chicago. The Oprah show link for today (Monday Feb. 11, 2008) is here.

The story starts with a family in Seattle that had bought a 60s tract house. The family had one small boy. But the wife’s brother was, for reasons largely not disclosed, unable to raise his three young girls, so the family eventually took custody of the three nieces, in a kind of “Raising Helen” scenario (also demonstrated on the WB show “Summerland” a few years ago). This sort of situation, where adults wind up raising siblings’ children, happens more often than one would think.

The family was housed in a nearby furnished apartment while Nate and his company practically rebuilt the house, adding a new wing and second floor with individual bedrooms for each child, a new master bedroom, family space, and parents’ foyer upstairs. Outdoors he built a new porch and play room. (I was wondering if a model railroad or baseball stadium was going to appear.)

Organizing such a project obviously takes a lot of effort from the Oprah show (Harpo Productions, which has also made three feature films), getting donations from major corporations, labor from the Seattle Seahawks (yes, they did beat the Redskins), and even a video from the High School Musical cast and an appearance by Zac Efron. Berkus took the girls to a local chain bistro (the Red Robin) to find out what they wanted in their rooms. A project like this requires a lot of “people skills” and communicating with clients at different levels of interaction.

Berkus was present in Sri Lanka and rescued when the Indonesian tsunami "mega-disaster" struck on Dec. 26, 2004. story Oprah’s link on this is here. The Advocate has a link here.

Oprah Winfrey appeared today on Dr. Phil’s 1000th Anniversary show, which was probably taped a few days ago. The link is here. Oprah is omnipresent: she would be supporting Barack Obama in the DC area today; Dr. Phil's show (NBC) came from LA, and Oprah's comes (ABC) from Chicago. The other major daily show from Chicgo is (NBC) iVillage with “The Apprentice” Bill Rancic.

Oprah.com contains numerous references to Berkus’s work rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, for example, here.

I mentioned an earlier appearance by Nate on the Oprah show on this blog June 25 2007. Nate and Oprah say that they plan more makeovers, and invite the submission of deserving family stories through Oprah's site.

Picture (unrelated): Greek Orthodox church in Washington DC.

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