ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Becki Agar feels like she’s living a Hallmark movie.
“I’m just so amazed at the kindness and generosity of people,” remarked Becki, standing in her bustling basement Thursday morning.
The space that was bare and quiet a week ago was suddenly buzzing with construction activity.
“To have this kind of support for (Johnny), it’s just unbelievable. It’s like a Christmas miracle,” said Becki.
Johnny Agar, too, is beyond grateful.
“To have everybody here just come together … it’s really something special,” said Johnny Agar. “It’s really a Christmas gift that I will never forget.”
Becki and her son, Johnny, worked last winter to rip out the family’s basement to turn it into an apartment for Johnny.
The 27-year-old has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
The basement apartment would allow him to gain more independence while still living with his parents.
The Agars hired Matt Mencarelli of Matthew’s Woodworking out of the Rockford area to complete the project.
But after receiving an initial payment of $9,000 from the Agars, Mencarelli never returned to do the work.
SECRET SANTA CONTRACTOR STEPS IN
Before Target 8’s Investigation on Mencarelli even aired, a different West Michigan home builder, who wants to remain anonymous, contacted us to offer help.
He had learned of the upcoming story after a promotion ran on News 8 Daybreak.
“Please call me about the family that was left in a bad spot by the builder,” the contractor wrote in a text to Target 8 at 7:41 a.m., minutes after the promo for the story aired.
Nine days later, the home builder had visited the Agar home several times, worked up plans and enlisted the help of more than a dozen industry professionals and suppliers.
“If you are included on this message, it’s because your fail rate with (my company) has been near or at zero year after year,” wrote the contractor in an initial group email with the subject line “heroes only or Santa at a minimum.”
“I’m looking for material and labor donations and, as importantly, your time prior to Christmas. I know this is a big ask given the time of year and the already packed schedules… If you are able to help, please call any time day or night and please consider asking your suppliers for some assistance. (My company) will not be billing for anything we perform,” the contractor wrote.
Thursday morning, the secret Santa homebuilder assembled a team of generous souls to work toward finishing the Agar’s basement at little or no cost to the family.
One worker came out of retirement to help.
CHRISTMAS EVE DEADLINE, LITTLE TO NO COST TO FAMILY
The team’s goal is to make the space useable for Johnny Agar by Christmas Eve, a project that would normally take two and a half months.
They’re trying to do it in three weeks.
If you’re an industry professional and you would like to join Team Agar in this effort, please email email@example.com, and we will connect you with the contractor coordinating the project, who asked us not to identify him or his company publicly.
Johnny, himself, is helping in the project too.
The anonymous homebuilder hired him as site project manager to inspire the team and keep track of those who donate to the project, among other duties.
“After learning (Johnny) has a BA from Aquinas, I suspect his role will grow,” wrote the contractor in an email to Target 8.
A GIFT FROM ONE IRON MAN TO ANOTHER
Johnny Agar knows how to overcome barriers.
The ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Under Armour Sports Equipment has defied doctor’s predictions, competing in endurance races nationwide with his dad, Jeff.
Also on-site Thursday morning was Ted Etheridge, a fellow triathlete who began competing at age 63.
“I’ve followed the Agars and Johnny’s accomplishments. While I have competed in Ironmans, he is the real Ironman,” wrote Etheridge in an initial email to Target 8.
Etheridge surprised Johnny Thursday, revealing his family will cover the cost of a wall of four TV’s for the sports-obsessed 27-year-old.
“It gets dark out there doing an Ironman, and you need a lot of perseverance. Johnny embodies that. Pretty special guy. I’m happy to help,” Etheridge told Target 8.
Johnny could not contain his excitement over the generous gift.
“It’s gonna be a mancave like no other,” exclaimed Johnny. “Thank you, Ted! It’s just going to be amazing. I’m so excited. I can’t believe it!”
Johnny said the gift is especially sweet because Etheridge is part of the racing community.
He also noted his immense gratitude for the entire team’s effort as well as its willingness to hire him on as site manager.
“It’s been a hard thing to see my parents struggle through this, and so it’s really special that I get to put in work too and show my parents how thankful I am for them,” Johnny told Target 8.
At that point, Becki Agar, choked back tears.
“IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING”
“That totally surprised me because we didn’t think that he was thinking that. We just love him, and we want him to be as independent and possible. It’s a beautiful thing,” Becki said of the incredible community support.
The contractor who volunteered to complete the project also made several adjustments to the plan.
In addition to several aesthetic enhancements, the builder redesigned the kitchenette and re-positioned the furniture and tv wall to improve the space’s accessibility.
“This space really goes a long way in accomplishing my goal of being as independent as possible,” said Johnny, repeatedly expressing his gratitude to the on-site team.
“Our goal is to get it done by Christmas,” Johnny re-emphasized. “That’s the kind of challenge we’re up against, but we’re ready for it, and we’re excited about it. I’m just trying my best to motivate the crew, and they’re doing a wonderful job.”
Among the generous companies working on the project so far are Wolverine Drywall, LLC, Jackson & Co Interior Design, Ford Stone, Created Control Home Automation and Stephen Molitor, a trim carpenter.