Community comes together to renovate chronically ill girl's home

BRADEN FASTIER / Stuff.co.nz

The Perrone family arrive back at their renovated house after a monumental effort by the community to help, and improve their life and that of Bernadette who suffers from Ivemark Syndrome.

A Nelson family with a chronically ill teen is in disbelief over the community's generosity after tradies and volunteers joined forces to revamp their family home.

It has taken 10 days, more than 80 workers and close to $55,000 worth of materials to revamp the Perrone family's Nelson home - but the renovation has also fixed the family's spirit.

Tears of joy and disbelief rolled down the cheeks of mother Elizabeth Perrone and her family of when they walked through their newly-renovated house for the first time on Tuesday night.

The family of eight has spent the past 23 years living in the run-down property looking after their chronically ill daughter.

READ MORE: Tradies join forces to help renovate sick girl's bathroom

Bernadette was born with Ivemark syndrome, a condition that affects her organs, bones and arteries.

Thirteen years ago Elizabeth was told her unborn daughter would not survive.

As she and her husband, Francis, carried their newborn through the front door of their Motueka St home, they thought they had brought Bernadette home to die.

But "she is courageous and she's gutsy".

Bernadette and her mother Elizabeth Perrone are grateful for the community support to upgrade their house.
MARION VAN DIJK

Bernadette and her mother Elizabeth Perrone are grateful for the community support to upgrade their house.

The Perrone's damp, dark family house has played havoc with Bernadette's health and Elizabeth felt at fault: "I was letting my family down," she said.

The home's sagging roof and mouldy walls were swallowing Elizabeth. Everything was worn out and breaking.

It didn't matter how hard she and Francis worked. They could never scrape together enough cash to fix anything.

The Perrone family arrive back at their renovated house after a monumental effort by the community to help and improve ...
BRADEN FASTIER

The Perrone family arrive back at their renovated house after a monumental effort by the community to help and improve their life and that of Bernadette, who suffers from Ivemark Syndrome.

After decades living in the damp, pokey house an overwhelming feeling of guilt and helplessness pushed Elizabeth to ask for help, "because Bernadette needed it".

Elizabeth went to see Helen McDonnell at CCS Disability Action in Nelson. Her story motivated McDonnell to write a letter to Mitre 10 Mega marketing co-ordinator Murray Leaning.

What was returned to Elizabeth and her family was nothing she could have ever imagined, she said.

Mitre 10 Mega staff have a Helping Hands day work in the garden, from left Alfred Christoffersen, Meg Brown, Lyndsay ...
MARION VAN DIJK

Mitre 10 Mega staff have a Helping Hands day work in the garden, from left Alfred Christoffersen, Meg Brown, Lyndsay Dixon and CEO Brandon Beverage at the Perrone family home during the renovation.

"We thought we were going to get help with, maybe, a shower ... but as it turns out it sort of just grew."

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Leaning helped lead what he called a Facebook bathroom renovation. He said what started as a simple revamp spread to the Perrone's entire house and garden.

"I never thought people would do that for us," Elizabeth said. "I would like to say thank you very much for all your generosity and your kindness and your hard work."

The Perrone family from left Chris, Francesca, Francis, Elizabeth, and Matthew.
BRADEN FASTIER

The Perrone family from left Chris, Francesca, Francis, Elizabeth, and Matthew.

Although Bernadette was not able to make it to the home reveal, she had been kept up to date with everything.

"It made a huge difference to her," Elizabeth said. 

Bernadette's last surgery had left her feeling downtrodden. However the news of Nelson community's generosity to her family had raised her spirits.

"She's thinking about what she would like to do when she grows up and that's something she hasn't talked about for a long time."

As Elizabeth, Francis, Francesca, 20, and 18-year-old twins Chris and Matthew turned the key to their front door, waves of emotion rolled over them.

"Oh my gosh, it looks like a whole new house. It's so beautiful," Matthew said.

Francesca, who shared a room with Bernadette, burst into tears when she saw her bright, clean surroundings.

The Perrone family in one of their home's newly-renovated bedrooms.
BRADEN FASTIER

The Perrone family in one of their home's newly-renovated bedrooms.

"I'm lost for words really. I'm going to cry every time I go in there," she said.

"I can't wait to see her [Bernadette's] face. I can't wait to have her back here. We've never been separated for this long before."

Workers and volunteers who helped make the Perrone's renovation a reality celebrated with Elizabeth's family in their freshly spruced-up back yard.

 - Stuff

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