Angie DeLost, a 1998 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, was a liaison between the ABC reality series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and the family of 8-year-old Jake Grys, who has dwarfism and osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition also known as brittle bone disease.
“I kept sending application after application, CD after CD,” she said.
She said Jake’s adoptive parents have been foster parents to more than 300 kids over the years. Today, seven people live in the new house, including the parents, two of the couple’s four biological children and three adopted children, all of whom have special needs.
DeLost’s big job was helping to advise builders on modifications to the new home to accommodate Jake’s needs. But she also is raising funds to pay off medical bills and the mortgage on the first house, she said. “Our goal is to raise $130,000. Our latest figure is $90,000.”
For DeLost, the whole experience came months after she was bedridden for two months in the spring because she developed pre-eclampsia during a pregnancy. At one point, a cyst was found in the brain of her unborn son. He was born three weeks early and today, both are healthy.
DeLost said she displayed a photo of Jake on her hospital wall to give her inspiration and courage during her ordeal.
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“All the things I hoped and prayed for have come true,” she said.
DeLost said the Quad-City connection goes beyond herself and Sanitary Cleaners.
She said current and past occupational therapists students from St. Ambrose helped during the week. She credits one of her former professors, Jon Turnquist, and Phyllis Wenthe, who now heads up the occupational therapy department at the Davenport university.
“(Wenthe) brought a group of 15 students. They all got in a van and drove up on the day of the reveal,” DeLost said, referring to the day when the new home is revealed to the family. “They had made signs, like ‘We love Jake,’ and they all wore St. Ambrose clothes. They were close to the front. It was touching.”