Casey Voisine and her family have sure been surprised lately.
The Manchester, New Hamp-shire, family received their first shock when Ty Pennington, the host of the hit ABC reality series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, knocked on the door of their rental apartment on October 17 and told them they would be getting a new home.
Then Casey and her husband Reynald along with their four boys between the ages of 3 and 13, were whisked away to St. Thomas while Pennington and a horde of volunteers construct their new house.
But the surprises didn’t end there. On Monday, October 22, members of the Artists’ Association of St. John threw Casey Voisine a surprise birthday party at the group’s gallery in the Lumberyard complex where AASJ members presented the family with about 20 paintings for their new home.
And to ensure the Voisines return to St. John, Caribbean Villa and Resorts owners Terri Hansen and Diane Janelle and manager Christine Barbich presented Casey Voisine with a week-long villa vacation.
No Help from FEMA
The Voisines deserve some pleasant surprises after their house, located near the Merrimack River, suffered severe flood damage last May. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials advised the family to raze their small house but then denied the Voisines a loan to rebuild.
The home was not located in a flood zone and the family did not have flood insurance. Casey, who works in retail, and Reynald Voisine, a door-to-door book salesman, and their four children have been living in an apartment next to their vacant lot for the last year and a half.
The family was shocked on October 18, when Pennington woke them up with his famous “Good Morning Voisines!”
The Voisines were only aware that they were among five finalists for the show after being nominated by neighbors, explained Casey Voisine.
“We had no idea,” she said. “We were totally shocked. It’s overwhelming.”
The next thing they knew, the family, along with a camera man, a sound man and Extreme Makeover producer Herb Ankron, were on their way to the Virgin Islands.
“We had no idea we were coming here,” said Casey Voisine. “We would never be able to afford something like this on our own. We haven’t had a vacation in 10 years — it’s incredible.”
The family was having a bit of difficulty enjoying themselves knowing their friends and family members — who they were not allowed to contact — were working so hard back in New Hampshire.
“We’re supposed to be having all this fun and everyone else is working all night for us,” said Casey Voisine. “We’ve been crying a lot because it’s so emotional. We can’t have any contact with our family either — it’s all top secret.”
The Voisines also had to get used to being followed by a cameraman everywhere they went.
“It’s a bit weird having a cameraman everywhere,” said Casey. “I keep wanting to hide, but it’s all a part of the experience.”
The Voisines and company arrived on St. Thomas on Friday, October 19, and were greeted by the crew of the 69-foot Irwin charter boat Irie. While touring
St. Thomas, the Irie crew brought the family to Gallery St. Thomas, owned by AASJ member Claire Ochoa.
Irie owners Jon Hull and Katia Andreeva discussed having a surprise birthday party for Casey Voisine at the St. Thomas gallery when Ochoa offered the larger space at the AASJ gallery.
Art for New Home
Hull contacted AASJ president Bob Wilkinson who quickly organized the soiree and secured plenty of presents for the birthday girl.
“Every member I contacted was excited to be a part of this,” said Wilkinson. “I had to stop asking after 20 people because there is only going to be so much room in their new home for all the art.”
Casey Voisine was not expecting a birthday party when she walked onto the AASJ gallery deck.
“I thought we’d have a birthday cake with dinner or something — this is amazing,” she said, almost in tears.
Wilkinson even sang a bluesy “Happy Birthday” and the family enjoyed a delicious cake compliments of Baked In the Sun.
ABC officials picked up the shipping tab for the artwork and ensured it would all be in place when the family saw their new house for the first time on Thursday, October 25.
Although sporting slight sun burns, the Voisine family thoroughly enjoyed their Caribbean vacation.
“I love the water,” said 11-year-old Marty Voisine. “I miss my puppy Caramel, but I’m having fun.”
The family enjoyed even another surprise when they watched a video of Pennington and were serenaded by their favorite musician, explained 13-year-old Reynald Voisine, Jr.
“We just watched a video from home and saw Ty and everyone up there,” said Reynald Jr. “He showed us our favorite musician Ronnie Adkins sing our favorite song ‘These Are Our People.’ They were at our house — it was amazing.”
While 8-year-old Patrick and Trevon, 3, also enjoyed watching Adkins’ performance, they had fun playing in the waters off St. John too.
The Voisine episode of Extreme Makeover will air on ABC in January and St. John artists and their work will be featured.
“It was great to be able to do something nice for this family and it’s also incredible to get national exposure for St. John artists,” said Wilkinson.
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