It may have been just another rescue for George Oliphant from the popular NBC home improvement show George to the Rescue, but for Adam Halpern, his wife Heather, and 3-year-old son, Ryder, it meant the world.
In 2004, Halpern suffered a spinal cord injury from a car crash that left him paralyzed. Despite the challenges of adjusting to life in a wheelchair, his unwavering spirit and determination got him through. In October, the Halperns moved into their first home in Merrick, a three-bedroom ranch, but it was far from move-in ready.
“The home was unacceptable mainly because of my disability,” says Adam, 39.
One significant change was ripping up the steps on the exterior of the house. The other was removing all the carpet, since carpet is difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. Engineered hardwood floors were installed throughout the house.
“Those two things were a must,” says Adam, an adjunct professor/learning disabilities specialist. “I could not live in the space without it.”
During the construction, the couple applied for state-funded resources to assist people with disabilities. In the meantime, a co-worker who is an avid watcher of George to the Rescue convinced Heather to write a letter asking George for help. A few weeks later, the Halperns learned that they were chosen — a feeling they likened to hitting the lottery.
George came in with his team to create a space that would fit the family’s specific needs, giving them more accessibility and independence.
“We opened up doorways, reduced barriers and added smart technology,” says George. “This will all make life easier in and around the home.”The U by Moen was an absolute game changer for Adam, explains George regarding the customizable shower technology and smart phone integration. It works by way of voice commands through Alexa (anywhere in the home) or through his mobile app.
“Adam can preheat the shower before getting in at his desired temperature and if he isn’t ready to enter, the shower will pause at a temperature he is comfortable with before entering,” says George.
Other smart related features are all accessible via smart phone including: a 3M Filtrete Smart Filters which will alert him when it’s time to change out the HVAC filter in his home. He can also set his home heating and cooling through a Honeywell App. And, he is also connected with Lutron for all his lighting needs.
“It’s amazing how far home tech has come. Adam can now operate a wall switch and devices from the comfort of his own bed or seat, right through his smart phone or voice enabled device,” George adds.
The project that started in mid-February was completed on March 30. And the Halperns are still pinching themselves.
“I have no words for what George did,” says the father of one. “We would have never been able to do what George did even saving for 20 years. They remodeled our home to fit our specific individual needs and changed our world.”
Heather, a special education speech and language teacher, explains that the rescue has enabled her and Adam to be more independent. It has transformed their family dynamic and how they interact in their home.
“Adam can do laundry now,” she says. “He’s cooking more. I don’t have to worry when he showers.“He’s actually showering Ryder right now,” she continues. “And I have no safety concerns. We are both freer.”
“We sit at the table and have dinner,” adds Heather, 37. “We talk about what we’re thankful for before we eat. Our connection as a family has grown.”
One of Adam’s favorite areas is by the glass sliding doors in the kitchen, where he can watch his son playing outside.
“I love sitting having a cup of coffee, and I can see Ryder running and playing in the yard,” he says.
The kitchen isn’t too shabby either. Adam points out that before, it was tight quarters, but now it is spacious and just the right size for entertaining.
“There was zero eat-in space before and no room for a kitchen table,” says Adam. “Now you can seat 10 people comfortably. We love to have people over and since we moved back in, we have had people over every weekend.”
And, the most functional, he says, is the new size of the bathroom.
“They broke into my son’s room and took a foot away to make it bigger,” he says. “Now we can all fit in the bathroom, let alone me, where I can have my privacy.”
As Father’s Day approached, Adam, Heather and little Ryder were filled with gratitude. Ryder asks at least once a day, says his dad, “Is George coming back?” while mom chimes in with a laugh, “He’s always inviting people to come in and see our new beautiful kitchen.”
This was their first Father’s Day in their new home.