EMHE finale is bittersweet for a Fresno Family

FRESNO, Calif.

You may remember one Valley family in particular. Mary Ann Riojas and her four children say their lives will never be the same.

It was three years ago Monday that Ty Pennington, host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition knocked on the door of Mary Ann Riojas' Central Fresno home.

In one week's time, the small, simple home on East Robinson Avenue was transformed into a two-story 33-hundred square foot sanctuary. It was built especially to accommodate Mary Ann's wheelchair and to fit the lives of four busy teenagers.

Three years ago Mary Ann was working for the Fresno housing authority, now she is a full time sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics. She credits the ABC show with giving her confidence to move forward with what she really wanted to do with her life.

Mary Ann explained, "It made me believe that anything can happen. Your life can change in the blink of an eye. It gave me hope, and a reason to set new goals."

The show also had a hand in turning her son Angel's life around. He describes his 15-year-old self as a troublemaker, with no direction, and no hope.

"Extreme Home Makeover gave me the state scholarship, that's what actually changed it," said Angel Velasquez. "Cause I started actually feeling like I had a future, I had something to go on, something to get me started in my life."

Angel is married, with a new baby, and on track to become a registered nurse.

As for Mary Ann, her goal now is to give back to the community who gave her so much. But she's disappointed she won't be able to do that with her friends on Extreme Makeover.

Mary Ann said, "I was kinda bummed cuz I was hoping they would come back to Fresno so we could see the other end of it. Get to be here when all the action was taking place, Cuz we missed all that when it happened to us yeah, I was kinda bummed out."

No doubt there are hundreds of other families around the country who will also be bummed out, but, grateful.

Mary Ann said, "I'm sure there are many families like me that just want to say 'thank you.'"

The final episode of the show will include Extreme Makeover's biggest rebuild ever, seven homes in seven days for tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. It will also be the show's 200th episode. You can watch it this Friday night at eight o'clock on ABC30.

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