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“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” Works with Nationwide and Palm Harbor to Rebuild the Home of an Inspirational Father and Coach with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and his Paraplegic Son and Their Family

Williams FamilyOn February 21, 2010, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” travels to Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia, to meet Jeremy and Jennifer Williams, whose son Jacob was diagnosed with Spina Bifida before he was born. Then, several years after Jacob’s birth, Jeremy was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Now, the home Jeremy and Jennifer bought 13 years ago is falling apart around them. In addition to mounting home repairs, the home is too small to accommodate two disabled family members. In just seven days, team leader Ty Pennington, the design team, and the entire community will come together to build Jeremy, 38, Jennifer, 38, Josie, 8, and Jacob, 6, a brand new home.

High school sweethearts Jeremy and Jennifer Williams kept their love alive while attending separate colleges. A football star at the University of Memphis, Jeremy knew his calling was to become a coach and after graduation, Jeremy got a job at a local high school as the football coach.  The couple settled down to start a family and in 2002, Jeremy and Jennifer were told that there soon-to-arrive second child, Jacob, would be born with Spina Bifida, have severe mental disabilities, and may never be able to walk or talk. Jacob is paralyzed from the waist down, confined to a wheelchair, and has had countless surgeries on his brain, eyes, hips, and muscles. Despite the mountain of obstacles he faces each day, Jacob is an inspiration to everyone around him and has baffled doctors with his exceptional intelligence and positive attitude. Although he cannot play football, he attends every one of his father’s games and cheers on the team. Jacob also participates in a “Special Needs Rodeo,” which Jennifer was instrumental in organizing for her son and other local children with disabilities.

Jeremy has been the head football coach at Greenville High School for the past eight years and is currently the school’s athletic director as well. In 2005, Jeremy saw a doctor after having some trouble moving his hand. After three grueling years of testing, Jeremy was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease – a fatal, progressive disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord which interferes with the brain’s ability to control muscle movement. Jeremy has trouble walking and will soon be confined to a wheelchair, but he continues to coach his team, has only missed one practice to date, and led his team to an 11-0 season and into the playoffs last fall. His determination and motivation in the face of adversity has given hope and inspiration to the entire community.  But Jeremy and Jennifer are struggling to take care of each other and their family in their cramped and crumbling home. With two disabled family members, the small home prevents both Jeremy and Jacob from being able to move freely about the house.  Because Jeremy is too weak to help move Jacob from room to room, Jennifer must carry Jacob throughout the house and as Jacob gets bigger, that will become impossible. In addition, the foundation of the home is cracked and sinking, one of the lower retaining walls is broken, and their leaking air conditioner has infected their walls with mold. Now, it’s up to the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team and hundreds of local volunteers to build a new home where Jeremy can make the most of his time with his family and Jacob can grow up comfortably and independently.

The Williams family will go on vacation to Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, Colorado, while “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team leader Ty Pennington, designers Michael Moloney, Paul DiMeo, and Tracy Hutson, local builders with Nationwide Homes and Palm Harbor Homes, and community volunteers rebuild their home.

A Jeremy Williams Tribute Account has been set up with through the ALS Foundation of Georgia to accept donations to help stop ALS and to support families impacted by this disease. Please consider making a donation in Jeremy’s honor.