Tears of joy during big renovation reveal

Plans to secretly renovate the home of Mike and Elaine Sullivan and then reveal it to them on their return from Australia yesterday morning went perfectly, with the couple being greeted by a crowd of some 50 family, friends, business owners and tradesmen.

The reveal was the culmination of three weeks of frantic work, initiated by the Sullivan's youngest son and Olympic rowing gold medallist, Joseph Sullivan, with help from Marlborough Express sports reporter John Alexander.

Joseph and his brother, Brayden, who was also pivotal to making the project a success, proudly showed their parents around the house explaining what work had been done and who had been involved.

They were also joined by their sister, Yvette Bartholomew, and grandmother Yvonne Hall who travelled from Taihape in the central North Island to be present on the day.

Emotions were high, with the tight-knit family. Joseph, Brayden and Mike had to fight back tears of joy.

 ''Thank you so much, it's stunning. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I had better stop now,'' said Mike before emotion got the better of him.

Elaine was equally stunned by the transformation of their home over the past three weeks.

''We are very humbled by so many people being so kind to us, this is just amazing,'' she said.

The couple had been in Perth visiting their daughter, Roanna Sullivan, and their new granddaughter, Emma, since December 8. They were greeted at the bottom of their driveway just after 10.30am yesterday by their sons and a crew from Television New Zealand.

''We thought that they were maybe making a programme about Joe,'' said Elaine.

''It was just a great surprise for us to see both boys together - we never ever expected all of this, it's unbelievable.''

Some $70,000 worth of work, supplies and merchandise went into the house which received many improvements such as two totally renovated bathrooms, new paint, plastering on all the outside walls, some new indoor and outdoor furniture and a deck. They also got new blinds, a new stove in the kitchen, a new king bed and bedding, a new double bed and bedding, a new barbecue and extra insulation in the roof. The roof was repainted and the driveway is also set to be replaced early next year.

''I don't know what I am going to do with all my spare time now. This is all work that we have been wanting to do for 10 years now if not more - a deck in the garden is something Elaine has been asking for for years,'' said Mike.

The work was all done as a result of Joseph wanting to find a way to repay his parents for the unwavering support they have given his rowing career. Initially he planned to work on the roof and driveway and approached Marlborough Express sports reporter John Alexander to help with contacts.

John teamed up with Wairau Rowing Club coach, Dave Williamson, and the pair began contacting Marlborough businesses with an initially short list of requests. This soon grew as the businesses and tradesmen got on board, offering to improve and add to the plans.

''It has just blown me away at how all these people who I have never met and don't even know my parents have gotten behind this - cheers Marlborough,'' said Joseph


Marlborough's generous community spirit was on display at the reveal of Mike and Elaine Sullivan's Picton home restoration yesterday morning.

Some 65 individuals and 33 businesses gave freely of their time, expertise and merchandise to make the $70,000 makeover a resounding success.

The project began with Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan wanting to replay his parents for their years of support, but as his older brother Brayden Sullivan, Marlborough businesses and tradesmen got on board, a small list of jobs turned into a total home renovation.

"It has just blown me away at how all these people who I have never met and don't even know my parents have gotten behind this. Cheers Marlborough," said Joseph.

Final work went well into the night on Wednesday and was picked up again early on Thursday morning.

"I got off the ferry at 1am and came to the house to stain the sills. It's really great to get it finished," said Joseph, who had driven down from Auckland where he spent Christmas with his girlfriend Holly Ross and her family.

Brayden had been working the night before. "We probably finished up at about 10pm last night with the last few jobs like the last bit of painting and fixing up small things like the wall paper," said Brayden.

"The way the community has gotten behind this idea and given so much to it is just incredible, I can't thank everyone enough," said Joseph.

The tradesmen put in an incredible effort, despite the short time frame, ensuring that the smallest details were attended to.

One in particular, builder Lawrence Pope of Andrew Pope Homes, went the extra mile, said Joseph. APH offered Lawrence's services free of charge for two days but he then took it upon himself to see the project through, and along with plumber Cliff Bowers, worked tirelessly after regular work hours throughout the project.

"We really have to say a huge thank you to Lawrence and Cliff for all their work. Without them I don't think we would have gotten this done," said Brayden, who as a plasterer and stonemason did the plastering on the house's exterior.

A crowd of some 50 family, friends, business owners and tradesmen were at the reveal on Thursday morning, all eager to see the response from Mike and Elaine upon seeing their house.

"This is what community is all about and to see community members get involved in a project like this is great to see," said Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman.

After the formalities were completed yesterday, the barbecue was fired up and drinks were opened.

The Marlborough Express