Extreme Makeover brings family to Whistler 

The Keiki O Ka'Anna Family Learning Centre after its makeover.
  • The Keiki O Ka'Anna Family Learning Centre after its makeover.

Teresa “Momi” Akana has never forgotten her adventurous trip to Canada from her Hawaiian home.

“I was young and single and my favourite memory of my whole life was I went whitewater rafting up in Ontario,” said Akana, 45, who spent a week in Whistler this summer with her family while her home was being re-built by ABC’s Extreme Makeover – Home Edition team.

The show sends the family it chooses on a dream vacation to get them out of the way while they gut and rebuild the family home.

With her Canadian vacation memory in mind Akana asked to go white water rafting. Meanwhile, her three older kids, aged eight to 14, said they wanted to see snow for the first time and dad wanted to try his hand at snowboarding.

“It was the most incredible experience,” said Akana.

“We got to go whitewater rafting, we went in a helicopter to the top of a glacier, we went rock climbing, we went on ATVs up into the snow, we went zip lining, and we got to do it upside down, my husband got to go snowboarding and the kids got to go skiing.

“Talk about packing everything in to an adventure vacation. It was the best vacation of our lives and we plan, very soon, to come back to Whistler.”

The family didn’t even seem to mind the rain which fell for almost their entire June trip, said Jennifer Morrison of the Hilton Resort and Spa, who helped organize the Whistler vacation as the accommodation partner for Extreme Makeover.

“We took them to the top of the mountain and it was just dumping snow,” she said.

“We were thinking, oh no, and the kids were spinning around and just loving it.”

Meanwhile back in the Kalihi Valley on Oahu, the Extreme Makeover team was building a fabulous new house for the Akana family. And they also decided, for the very first time, to help an organization, rather than just a family, and built a new community centre and outdoor classroom for the Keiki O Ka ‘Aina Family Learning Centre organization which Akana founded to help disadvantaged Hawaiian children and their families.

“They saw all the good work that was being done and I think they made us one of their five finalists because they saw that they could make a broad impact on the community if they chose our project,” said Akana, who gave birth to her fourth child, a daughter, during the selection process.

On the day Akana found out they had been chosen the family had already given up hope it would be them.

“When we heard the team on the bullhorn yelling ‘Akana family’… my whole feeling was that they are gong to save us,” said Akana.

“They are going to come in and build a place that these mothers who work at the community centre deserve, and a place we can call our home.”

The two-hour Hawaii season-premiere show will be the 100th episode for the Emmy Award-winning show and will be airing on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. on ABC.

To celebrate, the Hilton is throwing an Extreme Makeover viewing party at the Cinnamon Bear at 7 p.m. A $2 donation would be appreciated, with all proceeds going to the Keiki O Ka ‘Aina organization.

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