"Extreme Makeover" family brings powerful message to East Texas

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX - On Sunday, January 30, America will meet the Brown family, and see their new home, courtesy of ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition team. Jeanne Brown says they were able to get into the new house just before Thanksgiving.

"It was almost like at first, we were just staying in a resort or something," Brown said. "And we kept waiting for somebody to come tell us it was time to check out. But we've gotten to stay!"

Like every "Extreme Makeover" family, the Browns were selected because of their amazing story. But unlike many other families, the Browns' story started with tragedy.

Their teenage daughter Alex died in November of 2009 when she wrecked her truck because she had been texting while driving. And the day she died, her parents made a life-changing decision.

"When the doctors came in and told us they just couldn't save her, they went in to get her cleaned up, and my husband and I were waiting," Brown said. "And he said, 'We've got to put this truck on a trailer, and go talk to kids, and tell them, Alex wouldn't listen to us, but maybe some of them will. If we can save one life every where we go, we're making a difference.'"

So the Brown family starting traveling around the country, taking Alex's mangled truck with them, speaking to schools about what can happen when drivers get distracted. The Browns say it takes a powerful message because it's a tough habit to break.

"After Alex died, I would catch myself going down the road, and if it buzzed or I saw it blinking, I would be like, wow," Brown said. "Then I'd have to finally just pull over and get it because I was in such a habit of having to read it just as soon as it came in."

The Browns' crusade got noticed by Oprah Winfrey, and they appeared on her show in 2010. Not long after, they were selected by the "Extreme Makeover" team. All because of the reminder they carry with them everywhere they go.

"When we first started doing it, I could just barely look at it, and I would just get real upset," Brown said, pointing at her daughter's truck. "But now I look at it, it's a tool, and it's something that's saving lives."

The Browns now recommend downloading one of the many smart phone applications that reads text messages aloud.

You can take the "East Texas Hands-free Zone Pledge" right now with your teenagers by clicking here.

You can also visit the Brown family's web page at www.bust2day.org.