REDONDO BEACH – The workers came early, armed with buckets and shovels, laboring hard for a pair of cops and a baby most had never met.
On a quiet suburban street on Saturday, the crew of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” gave up their weekend for no added pay, no special perks, united in their goal to build a new home for wheelchair-bound Los Angeles Police Department Officer Kristina Ripatti and her family.
Ripatti, who carries a bullet in her spine after a fight with a robbery suspect four months ago, had spent her nights sleeping separately from her husband, fellow Officer Tim Pearce, and 20-month-old daughter Jordan.
Part of her recovery has taken place at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
On a deadline that crams nine months of work into less than a week, the workers made over the tiny home that had kept the paralyzed cop, athlete and mother apart from her family.
“It’s all been a string of miracles,” said Michael Moloney, the program’s interior designer in charge of the common areas. “If the other officers hadn’t gotten there when they did, if she hadn’t been so fit, she wouldn’t be alive today. We just want to continue that string.”
So last Wednesday, the show sent
the family to Cabo San Lucas for a surfing vacation. On Friday, a squad of LAPD SWAT officers planted explosives within the 1950s-era two-bedroom house and blew it apart.
On Saturday, the crew laid a new foundation.
The program took an interest in Ripatti after community members mailed newspaper stories about her injury and quest to walk again to producers. LAPD Chief William Bratton personally called to implore them to lend a hand.
Among the groups volunteering to help was Long Beach-based Foasberg Cleaners, which donated $4,000 worth of service to clean the Ripattis’ linens, clothing and other personal items while the house was redone.
“We’re happy to do it,” owner Jim Foasberg said.
“It sure was a relief for Tim,” said Officer Scotty Stevens, Pearce’s partner. “He was practicing his jumping up and down before they showed up so he didn’t look too weird on TV. Now they can finally have a home that Kristina and Jordan can be comfortable in.”
And so on Saturday, the dirt lot that remained after Friday’s demolition slowly became a house.
Once complete, workers hope to have erected a place that incorporates the family’s love of outdoor sports, access to the bedrooms for Ripatti and wider entrances that allow her to move easily from room to room.
“When we found out who the family was, everyone just pulled a little bit harder,” said Chad Mayer, director of ShareFest, a coalition of churches and nonprofit groups that helped put the team together.
Cornerstone Construction Group Inc., a longtime, family-owned Redondo Beach contractor, oversaw the program.
“It’s an honor to me to work on this,” said Linda Braden, Cornerstone’s president. “Having a family like this that’s done so much. They put their lives on the line for the rest of us.”
Ripatti consistently eschews such praise, saying she was merely doing her job and the risk of injury comes along with police work.
But the crewmembers don’t seem to believe her.
“They’re amazing people. When you meet her, you just want to be her friend right away,” said Paige Hemmis, a Porter Ranch-based carpenter and designer for the program.
“We want to make her life like everyone else’s again. We want her to have a bed she can share with her husband.”
Brent Hopkins can be reached at (818) 713-3738.
By Brent Hopkins, Staff writer