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To the 'Extreme': Large crowd on hand for 'Extreme Makeover' rally in Fargo

Participants in the Monday pep rally at the Bison Sports Arena watch video clips from the popular television series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." David Samson / The Forum

If "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is the 2010 version of an old-fashioned barn raising, then Fargo-Moorhead is ready to build a high-octane barn.

About 3,000 people gathered Monday at North Dakota State University's Bison Sports Arena for a pep rally - complete with a floor full of cheerleaders and music by the NDSU marching band.

"It's the American way to help people," said Jesse Crotts of Osage, Minn., who said he can shingle and hang Sheetrock.

"Deep down, everyone wants to do everything they can to help others," he said.

Jeff Sandgren, the pastor of Fargo's Olivet Lutheran Church, has encouraged his congregation to pitch in any way they can.

"I was a carpenter in college. That's how I worked my way through school," Sandgren said. "I'll do whatever they tell me to do, thankfully."

The family that will get the home will likely be announced Monday, said Milan Vasic, the show's senior executive producer.

After that, comes about seven days of filming.

However, the builders, led by Fargo's Heritage Homes, will have only 106 hours - four and a half days - to do the actual construction.

That will take several thousand volunteers, Vasic said, comparing the effort to the barn raisings in America's pioneer and expansion days.

"We need the community's support. Everyone can be a hero and they can step up in some way," Vasic said "If you can't hammer a nail straight, you can maybe donate a little food."

Daryl Braham, co-owner of Heritage Homes, was excited by the turnout, and promised that taking part in the build will be a life-changing experience.

He should know. Heritage Homes has been part of two other Extreme Makeover homes, one in Minot, N.D., and the other in New Orleans.

"This is probably the best opportunity we've ever been given to give back to our community," Braham said.

"This family is very deserving. This show is a way to bring the community together. I can't stress this enough: It will change people's lives," Braham said.

Once filming is completed, it will take six to eight weeks to edit before the show is ready to air, Vasic said. No "hard date" to air has been set, he said.

None of the celebrity cast members was on hand live for the event, but a few appeared by video. In addition, the show's behind-the-scenes designers and producers were introduced to the audience.

Vasic said the show, now in its eighth season, is about citizenship, volunteerism and community.

"We're asking people to give a few hours out of their life to help us change someone else's life and in the process, ... I think you change your own life," Vasic said. "It really is about giving back to others."

Bergen Olson, a North Dakota State University student, is ready to give.

"Just any way that I can help, I will help," Olson said.

Monique Kraft of Fargo, who wants to be an interior designer, will also chip in.

"It's just something that if it were me, I'd greatly appreciate the help," she said. "Just knowing that the people that need it, get it and deserve it."