Makeover complete, but Gilyeat still can’t believe his eyes

the kansas city kansan logoNovember 13, 2007 – Standing across the street from his home on Sunday morning, Daniel Gilyeat stole occasional glances at his brand-new house. Each time, a slight smile crossed his face and a slight shaking of his head from side to side was barely perceptible. It was as if he didn’t trust his own eyes; he couldn’t really believe what he was seeing.

“It still feels like a dream,” Gilyeat said.

To be fair, Gilyeat’s new house, located at 3003 N. 65th Terrace in Kansas City, Kan., does have a dream-like quality – especially considering that the structure rose from the ground in less than a week.

Gilyeat and his four children were recipients of an “Extreme Makeover,” courtesy of the popular television show on ABC. After Gilyeat’s old home was torn down last Monday, construction crews and hundreds of volunteers built a new home in just a few days. Over the weekend, the final scenes for the show were recorded.

“It’s gonna take a long time for it to completely settle in,” Gilyeat said during a small press conference on Sunday, the day after over a thousand people crammed into the KCK neighborhood to get a look at Gilyeat, his home, and the cast of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

“I never expected this,” he said. “To see everybody from Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., coming together and putting their heart and soul into this house… you can feel every square inch of that house is built out of love.”

But a new home was not the only thing the Gilyeat family received over the weekend. Officials from Grantham University gave Gilyeat a four-year scholarship, and Kansas City Kansas Community College President Dr. Thomas Burke gave scholarships to each of Gilyeat’s four children.

“That means the world to me,” said Gilyeat, a former Marine who lost a leg and nearly died while serving one of two tours of duty in Iraq. “My family is everything to me. They’re what kept me alive on the battlefield.”

In addition to the scholarships, Gilyeat also received a proclamation from Unified Government Mayor/CEO Joe Reardon proclaiming last week “Daniel Gilyeat Week.”

But another gift to the family should help make ends meet financially.

Meredith Iler, who works for a charity called “Helping A Hero” and who nominated the Gilyeats for “Extreme Makeover,” spoke during Sunday’s press conference. The organization actually builds homes for disabled veterans, and they considered building a new home for Gilyeat. But when Iler was reviewing the family’s situation, she said, she decided, “This has ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover’ written all over it.”

So instead of building a new home for the family, “Helping A Hero” did the next best thing. They paid off the rest of Gilyeat’s current mortgage.

A teary-eyed Gilyeat was nearly speechless after Iler revealed the organization’s plan.

But he did promise to return the favor to the community in any way possible – and he also vowed to continue helping other disabled veterans.

“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay it, but I’ll definitely try,” he said. “You’ll definitely be proud of me.”

Gilyeat also had nice words to say about Kevin Green, whose construction company, Kevin Green Homes, built the new house in conjunction with ABC.

“Kevin Green, I don’t know how you did it, but that is the most beautiful house I have ever seen,” Gilyeat said. “You have a best friend forever.”

Because of ABC’s strict privacy guidelines, little is known about the inside of the house, and Gilyeat couldn’t answer any questions about the interior or talk about it in any way. But if the exterior is any indication, the interior must be just as grand.

Gilyeat’s kids certainly must think so.

On Sunday, as the crew was preparing to film one final scene with the family standing outside of the house and saying “Thank you,” six-year-old Danny Gilyeat, the second youngest of Gilyeat’s four children, tugged at his father’s shirt and said, “Dad, can I go back to my room?”