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Local businesses, school community rally to renovate home for family with health challenges
The Pilons have always been a family known for “paying it forward.” Whether it is children or animals in need of a home, the family has opened their doors without hesitation. Now that they are facing their own crisis, they are realizing that it’s okay to be on the receiving end of that same generosity and kindness.
About a year ago, Suzanne Pilon and her four children were diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited disorder characterized by the growth of polyps in the small intestine, large intestine and rectum that eventually become cancerous.
Suzanne was the first to undergo surgery, having her colon, appendix and gall bladder removed in May and another child has had the surgery as well. Three more must undergo the process followed by frequent checkups at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo. In addition to mounting medical bills, the family’s 1850s home was in dire need of renovation. That’s where Suzanne’s co-worker, Stephanie Harney, stepped in.
In addition to providing updates to staff at Quest Elementary School where Suzanne is a teacher and Harney is a library media specialist, Harney has organized fundraisers and rallied local businesses to donate services and materials to renovate the Pilon home.
“After sending many letters to local contractors and organizations to help the Pilon family with a home makeover, the Home Depot Foundation has come through,” said Harney. The Home Depot Foundation has committed $80 million over five years to support the housing needs of U.S. veterans. The Pilons are eligible for the program because Carl is a Vietnam veteran. In addition to funding, Home Depot associates contribute their own time and talents through Team Depot, their associate-led volunteer force.
The “pseudo-extreme makeover” began August 19 and will include a new kitchen, bathroom, walls, floors and front steps thanks to the $30,000 makeover led by volunteers from the Home Depot in Gates. “I’m thankful that I work for a company that is so giving and allows me to help my neighbors,” said Ahmad Rivazfar, store manager. “The Pilons are a special deserving family and through projects like this, that honor veterans and their families, we are able to give back in a meaningful way.”
In addition to help from Home Depot, CM Roofing located in Hilton has already replaced the Pilons’ roof, Boon and Sons, Inc. donated a dumpster for the roofing project, Out on a Limb Tree Service provided tree removal services, Metalico provided a dumpster lift, Equipter in Bath donated the use of two “shingle buggies,” Doug and Kelly Sample of Claymont Development are demolishing the old barn, E-Z Portable Restrooms have provided porta potties, and Staples has donated a banner.
Harney and a group of school volunteers are selling bright green and hunter green “Hilton Cares” T-shirts for $10 each to help raise money to cover the family’s health care costs and gas money for trips to Buffalo. “The T-shirts were anonymously donated, so all proceeds go to the Pilons,” said Harney. The shirts are available in adult sizes S – 2XL and can be purchased throughhttps://sites.google.com/site/hiltoncaresorg or by contacting Stephanie Harney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hilton Cares group also has a website for monetary donations at https://youcaring.com/pilon and updates can be found on the Pilon Home Renovation Project - Hilton Cares Facebook page.
Volunteers are needed to help with the renovations every weekday now through September 24, which is the reveal date. Those interested in volunteering should email Stephanie Harney in advance. Local restaurants interested in donating light meals for the volunteers on workdays can also contact Harney. Several restaurants have already stepped up, including Tim Horton’s, Pettinari’s Deli & Pizza, Inc., Mark’s Pizzeria and Caraglio’s Pizza.
“Words can’t even express how thankful we are to everyone who is helping us,” said Suzanne. The Pilons are foster parents and are currently fostering one child and have adopted another. Carl, a retired factory worker, is a stay-at-home dad and Suzanne hopes to return to her teaching job in the fall. “I keep telling people to be patient because as soon as we’re back on our feet we’re going to give back,” said Suzanne. “We’re going to get back in there and pay it forward.”
Photos by G. Griffee