By Karen Colbenson

kcolbenson@postbulletin.com

HAYWARD, Minn. -- In the span of one week, the DeVries family of Hayward went from small town farm folk to regional celebrities. Their whirlwind week of surprise, suspense and thrill has yet to slow down as they continue to be showered with generosity as they experience the American television phenomena of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The beautiful new home they discovered Tuesday at the site where their old home once stood might be the peak of the big week, but on Wednesday during a press conference, local companies presented the family -- Dirk and Susan, and their three children April, Derik and Hanna -- with more gifts worth thousands of dollars.

A representative from Waldorf College in Iowa presented April DeVries, 17, with four years of paid tuition. Larson Contracting presented two years of paid utilities, a gift from the community of Albert Lea. The family also received several other gifts, including a new $36,000 Ford pickup truck from Dave Syverson Ford in Albert Lea and and a year’s worth of E85 fuel worth about $6,000 of fuel donated by POET Biorefining.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Visibly overwhelmed, the family clapped and cried. Dirk DeVries described the past week as a "whirlwind."

The "Extreme Makeover" crew, including TV star Ty Pennington, arrived Sept. 30 to start the project. The family was nominated by friends at their church.

Dirk DeVries, 50, is a mechanic and former farmer who lost one of his arms in a farming accident. His wife, Susan, 42, suffers from ventricular tachycardia, which causes rapid heartbeat. She teaches music and band, and is also a bus driver and first-grade reading specialist.

Crews worked around the clock while the family took a vacation to Niagara Falls, N.Y. In that time, the old house was demolished and a new house was built.

Dirk DeVries said he knew "very little" of what was happening at his farm, but said it was "a tough moment" to realize his childhood home would be demolished. His wife had an opposite opinion.

"It was time for it to go, so I felt good about it," said Susan DeVries, laughing.

"It’s just a fantastic thing," Dirk DeVries said. "We’re going to enjoy it a lot."

Susan DeVries said she’ll never forget the moment the bus blocking the view of her completed house pulled forward, revealing the new home.

"I am on an adrenaline high," she said.

"To think that some people who don’t even know us did this for us..." began Dirk DeVries.

New house

What’s the best part of the new house?

"Everything," said April DeVries. "The new house. The designers just knew what we wanted."

Her little sister agreed.

"Yeah, it’s really cool," said 12-year-old Hanna DeVries, grinning.

Derik DeVries, 15, said he was shocked when he saw how many people traveled out in Tuesday’s daylong rain to witness the unveiling of the new home.

"I didn’t know there were that many people that lived in Albert Lea," he said, smiling. "It was crazy."

Choking up, Dirk DeVries said it’s "going to be an awesome Sunday" at church this weekend.

"To see the ladies that nominated us, to really give them a hug and a thank you..." he said. "It’s unbelievable. I’m going to think of it every time I drive down the driveway. Seeing that big bus and having Ty right there in front of us...it was real."

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/index?pn=index

Truck and fuel donation http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/flex-fuel-vehicle-years-supply-e85/story.aspx?guid={2A40E10F-F594-48DF-97A2-846931300E98}&dist=hppr