Builders rally to help local teen and his family

Filed under: News |

After spending a summer at Craig Hospital in Denver, Jeremy Lanosga is ready to come home. However, before the 17-year-old can reunite with his mother and four siblings in Colorado Springs, the family house near Garden of the Gods needs an extensive remodel to accommodate Jeremy’s new physical needs.

Through HBA Cares, a Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association’s program; builders, subcontractors, real estate agents, financial institutions and a multitude of others in the community have stepped up to the plate to assist in bringing Jeremy home and making his life easier as he faces many challenges as a young quadriplegic.

On May 14, Jeremy rode his bike to Garden of the Gods and climbed one of the towering rock formations to take a picture of the sunset for a photography club project.

He lost his footing and fell between 50 and 75 feet before landing on a ledge. His mother and friends found Jeremy at midnight – four hours later. Jeremy had broken his neck, and had to be flown to Penrose Hospital.

After several surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation, Jeremy has minimal use of his hands and arms and no use of his legs.

“He didn’t deserve this,” said Eddie Meredith, Jeremy’s racquetball coach for the last three years. Meredith is an HBA member and the owner of Eddie Meredith Construction. And he is the builder-captain of the “HBA Cares about Jeremy” project.

Shirley Rouse, the HBA director of member services and the staff liaison for this project, said 45 companies have offered to help with the project, estimated at $75,000, through financial and in-kind donations. On Sept. 22, about 50 people, including Jeremy and his mother, attended a kick-off and planning luncheon, Rouse said.

Plans for the renovation are extensive. The project start date is Nov. 1, with a three-week from beginning-to-end timeframe. Meredith said the basement will be gutted and remodeled into a 1,000 square-foot living area for Jeremy.

A portion of the kitchen and family living room, which are on the middle level of the house, will be remodeled to facilitate the lift that will transport Jeremy to and from the basement. Doorways throughout the house will be widened for wheelchair accessibility, and Renee Zentz, the executive vice-president of HBA, said Classic Homes has agreed to the exterior renovations, which include a ramp and concrete work.

Meredith also has solicited assistance for Jeremy’s ongoing needs from the Colorado Racquetball Association and USA Racquetball. “As his coach, I was close to Jeremy,” Meredith said. “I worked with him for three years, and he was a promising racquetball player. He was a finalist in the last tournament he played in. I want to do everything I can to improve his living conditions for the future.”

The Colorado Racquetball Association, through its Web site – www.coloradoracquetball.com – is creating a Jeremy wish list. Meredith said the club is looking for items to improve Jeremy’s quality of living, such as a voice-activated computer, handicap-friendly furniture, special clothing and a big-screen television. USA Racquetball is asking for money nationwide for Jeremy’s family.

HBA Cares is one of two philanthropic arms of the association – the other is Home Aid. Zentz explained the difference between the two: Home Aid is specific and in coordination with community organizations that need or sponsor temporary housing for people in need. HBA Cares is nonspecific and an avenue for builders or developers who have a pet project involving individuals or charities.

Scott Building was in charge of HBA Cares’ first project, “HBA Cares about the Community.” The contractor built a home in University Park, and the net proceeds of the sale were distributed to community organizations, including Greccio Housing, the Red Cross and Urban Peak, Zentz said.

Brad Ausmus of Symphony Homes is the chairman of HBA Cares. He said the great thing about the program is that if an HBA member identifies a need in the community, HBA Cares provides the vehicle to get it done. “It’s project-to-project,” Ausmus said. “If something comes up, we figure out how to fund it and how to do it.

“When this project came to us, there was no way we could say no. We didn’t have the funds, but the people rallied, and the outpouring from the members has been heartwarming.”

HBA Cares is accepting donations for the “HBA Cares about Jeremy” project. For more information, call Shirley Rouse at 592-1800, ext. 17.

- Marylou.Doehrman@csbj.com