It’s not every day that you’re asked to be part of an Emmy-winning national television show, but when Reid Fogleman was posed the question, he answered with a resounding “Yes!” On Sunday, May 3, 2009 ABC aired an episode of its acclaimed Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
reality program that took place in Jamesville, NC to build a home for disabled veteran Jeff Cooper and his family. As any fan of the show knows, it takes an army of volunteers, skilled craftsman, and a multitude of sponsors and vendors to make the show (and more importantly the cause) a success. This is where Fogleman and his company Maxwell 3 stepped in…
“One Saturday a couple of months ago I was sitting with my good friend Harris Vaughan as we watched our sons play basketball. Harris
asked me if I was familiar with ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
. Well, of course I was, so I asked why he wanted to know. Harris explained that the show was coming to northeastern North Carolina and a buddy of his John Norris, who owns Edenton Builders, had been selected as the builder of the home. John asked Harris if his company Eckel & Vaughan, a communications and public relations firm, would lead the promotion of the build, coordinate media coverage, and line up sponsors and vendors for the project. Harris wanted Maxwell 3 to be a sponsor and provide various branded items. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help with such an amazing project and immediately got on board.
“Our tagline at Maxwell 3 is ‘We Bring Life to Logos.’ We offer many services that include development and execution of branded programs, fulfillment and inventory management, graphic design, and implementation of online company stores. Our goal is to bring life to your logo, which will in turn help unleash the power of your brand. Thankfully, Harris felt Maxwell 3 was a perfect fit to serve the needs of ABC, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
cast and crew, and the hundreds of volunteers that worked tirelessly to build the Cooper’s home.”
Maxwell 3 worked with its surplus of merchandise vendors to acquire more than $40,000 worth of goods to donate to the project. Items included: hats, jackets, T-shirts, golf shirts, lanyards, and design service for the various sponsor and partner banners. “It was such a pleasure to be part of that project. Not only do I have so much respect for Eckel & Vaughan, but then when I learned about the family and the struggles they’ve had it gets you more entrenched emotionally. From what I understand about their circumstances, they deserve every opportunity in the world.
“Having three children of my own I understand that you can’t just serve yourself—there is a greater cause and you’ve got to help people when and where you can. Getting some of my contacts on board for this was a tough sell because of our current economic situation. During good times you have more people offering to help than you need, but during bad times it’s much more difficult to get people to commit. That challenge made the experience all the more rewarding,” commented Fogleman.
He feels extremely fortunate to have built a company and have success in both his career and personal life—some of which he credits to his ECU education. “When I was at ECU it was just wide open for what you could do and how you could get involved. The communications classes that I took—speech, broadcasting, journalism—was where I learned skills that have been critical in my career. I’ve always had an outgoing personality, but those classes honed my ability to communicate and talk with people, which is essential in business.
“After I graduated I took a job with an advertising agency in Raleigh. Then I headed south to Atlanta and worked in restaurant management for several years before getting involved with a small marketing firm. In 1995, my father called my brother and me and asked if we had any interest in starting a company together. As a son who had great respect for his father, working with him was a special opportunity and one that we quickly said yes to. Our next step was to determine what type of business. Because of our different skill sets and experiences, we decided to start a promotional marketing firm. We all met a few days later and put together our first business plan. Three months later, Maxwell Marketing was incorporated.
“Over the past fourteen years, our company has grown to provide many services that are utilized by our corporate clients each day. We first focus on the company’s brand and how they want this to be viewed in the marketplace. Our next step is to implement programs and processes that support their brand. The key to our success is attributed to our ability to listen. How can we as individuals and companies solve problems and implement new strategies for our clients if we don’t completely understand their goals? Our belief has always been that if you build strong and trustworthy partnerships, the end result will be mutually rewarding relationships. The T-shirts, hats, and lanyards we provided Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
is small in comparison to all the product lines we offer to our clients,” said Fogleman.
If you missed the May 3 airing of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
you missed an amazing story of American heroism and family perseverance. Jeff Cooper is a Gulf War veteran who served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as a combat medic with the U. S. Army. Tragically, war took its toll on Cooper’s body and he now suffers from Gulf War Syndrome, has serious immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and is confined to a wheelchair. To make matters worse, his teenage son Aaron lost a good portion of his right arm two years ago when he was hit by a garbage truck.
Despite these challenges, the Coopers are active in their community and Jeff spends much of his time advocating for fellow veterans and persons with disabilities at local and state governments. It was his fellow eastern North Carolina veterans that nominated Cooper’s family for the show, in the hopes that this hero would receive a brand new, handicapped accessible home. Their former residence, a double-wide mobile home, was dilapidated, leaking, and difficult for Cooper to maneuver in with his wheelchair.
“Something that the dad said at the press conference that really touched me was that he missed being able to tuck his kids in at night because he can’t get into their bedrooms. As a dad I know how special it is to be able to tuck my kids in at night—and it’s something that I can do with ease. I can’t imagine how difficult that reality was for him,” said Fogleman. “It’s what made the project that much more meaningful to me. With the help of all the sponsors, vendors, workers, and volunteers we were able to make a dream come true.”
The design of the home is also a dream come true for Cooper. Jonathan White, the home’s architect from Beacon Architecture and Design in Kitty Hawk, NC, learned from show producers of Cooper’s lifelong dream to have a log cabin. “We had about four weeks from the time we were notified that we would design the home until construction would begin, and we felt strongly about honoring the recipient’s wishes. A log cabin in eastern North Carolina is not the norm, but it fits in this scenario and we were glad to do it.”
Laura McKeel-Gladson ’94 and her husband Richie were two of the many volunteers that spent an entire day working at the home site. “We did everything from hauling trash, to doing landscaping work around the yard, and even putting the family’s clothes into their closets. We brought in boxes containing the family’s personal effects and helped put those items out within the home, as well as placing new items. Volunteering for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a lot different than what you see on TV—it was a lot of work—especially for the skilled workers. There were so many people that helped, too, many more than what you see on the show.”
Nina Rose, a junior communications major from ECU, spent her entire spring break volunteering at the build. “Some of my friends and I decided to go to Jamesville on March 6 to volunteer. We didn’t know that volunteers weren’t needed until the next day, but we wanted to stay and help. I guess you could say we ‘charmed’ our way in and were put to work helping set-up the food stations for the workers, cast, and production crew. Once Albert Eckel and Harris Vaughan of Eckel & Vaughan found out that my concentration in school is public relations and journalism they asked me to come back the next day as an assistant to their firm.
“I ended up spending the entire week at the home site. It was such an incredible experience for me to be able to see first-hand what a public relations firm truly does. They put me to work contacting various media outlets to encourage them to come to the build site and I coordinated their interviews with the builder, sponsors, and volunteers, including their interview topics.
“I also worked on the daily blog and was able to tell some wonderful stories of those who volunteered their time and companies that donated goods and services to the project. One of my favorite stories was the mother-and-daughters team of Carolina Cupcakery Dessert Café from Chesapeake, Virginia who brought hundreds of uniquely flavored (and delicious) cupcakes to the site every day. You wouldn’t think that cupcakes would be important at a construction site, but they made so many people smile!
“I’m a huge fan of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
, so having that learning experience on what was basically a Hollywood set was amazing. I was even part of the filming! Early in the week the producers did a “jail scene” with one of the designers. I was an extra in the wood shop and had to act surprised that he was getting arrested. It was so much fun,” commented Rose.
Fogleman, like Rose, was most amazed by the volunteers, “Thinking back on my experience with Extreme Makeover
, the thing that sticks out to me the most is the commitment of the volunteers. You’d think that with people having spent so much time on site that by the end of the week everyone would have been exhausted and their enthusiasm would have waned, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I think people became more spirited and more excited as the reveal got closer. There was a sense that people really understood why so many came together to participate in that project.”
The convergence of thousands of workers, sponsors, and volunteers on the small town of Jamesville, NC for more than a week is certainly something residents of that area will not soon forget. Just as the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
experience will be something the ECU alumni and student volunteers will treasure for a lifetime.