Strangers, friends and family are remodeling Jesse Freeby’s house to make it wheelchair accessible
MILWAUKIE — Jesse Freeby never realized how many friends he has.
Not until about 60 people showed up at his Milwaukie home Monday morning — ready to tear the place apart.
They were there to begin rebuilding the three-bedroom ranch to make it wheelchair accessible. Freeby, a 43-year-old father of three, was paralyzed when he fell July 22 while chasing a theft suspect through his neighbors’ back yards.
“Incredible,” said Freeby, trying to find the right word to describe his feelings when he saw the small army of volunteers and friends gathered in front of his house, armed with power tools and building supplies.
The project, dubbed the Freeby Family Home Makeover, is the brainchild of Sarah Ulricksen, administrative assistant in private client services for Wells Fargo Bank, and Terry Boyd, a disc jockey for The Buzz, a Portland radio station (FM 105.1).
Ulricksen said she was dining a few weeks ago with a friend, a Clackamas County sheriff’s deputy, who reminded her of Freeby’s story.
Freeby fell from the top of a 5-foot fence and landed on his head. His 18-year-old son, J.B, an Eagle Scout and student at Rex Putnam High School, cradled his father’s head and neck to keep him still until paramedics arrived. Doctors at OHSU Hospital treated Freeby for a spinal cord injury and several broken bones in his back.
Ulricksen called Boyd at the radio station Nov. 9 to see what the two of them could do to help the Freeby family. They decided to recruit local supply stores and construction companies to assist in renovating the family’s home.
Brothers Mark and Matt Handris, owners of Stone Castle Homes Inc. of West Linn, are reconstructing the house. Other businesses will contribute interior and finishing work.
Improvements include a new front door and wheelchair ramp, a newly remodeled kitchen and a large Extension to the Freebys’ master bedroom, to make it easier to reach his new bathroom.
In the four months since the accident, a fund for Freeby has been set up by Merchants Bank and another account was set up Monday at Wells Fargo Bank, Ulricksen said. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch.
A spaghetti dinner fund-raiser — sponsored by the “Friends of Jesse” and aided by a local Boy Scout troop — at View Acres Elementary School a few weeks after the accident raised about $6,000. Hamilton’s Appliance store on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard in Gladstone, where Freeby has worked the past 13 years, is selling raffle tickets for store merchandise.
And the Gladstone Rotary Club has made the Freeby family its Centennial Project for 2005.
While friends help renovate his home, Freeby continues occupational and Physical Therapy sessions three times a week at the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center in Portland.
Freeby said Monday he has regained some movement in both arms but joked, “I can’t reach for the sky yet.”
He spent about seven weeks in rehabilitation at the University of Washington in Seattle in a hospital room overlooking Husky Stadium.
“I wanted to bring some Ducks and Beavers stuff to hang in the window,” said the onetime defensive end for Willamette University.
Freeby said his doctors are pleased with his progress. Although he’s paralyzed from the chest down, Freeby said he’s hoping doctors will clear him to begin using the rehabilitation center’s swimming pool in about two weeks.
That’s about the time members of the Freeby Family Home Makeover project hope to be finished.
“I knew they were coming by,” he said, “but, wow! I didn’t realize there would be so many. It shows how much people care. They’ve been fantastic.”
Dennis McCarthy: 503-294-5914;