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Project Emily gathers pace

It's not the early May sunshine that is warming Brian Wiliams' heart right now.

It's not the early May sunshine that is warming Brian Wiliams' heart right now.

He's thinking months ahead to what will likely be a chilly December day sure to be defrosted by a glow of pride as he hands over the keys to a home built through donations from a caring community.

The home will belong to the DeBoer family in Steveston. It's a complete rebuild done to provide access for 12-year-old Emily who was left a paraplegic following complications from surgery at BC Children's Hospital in early 2011 to correct curvature of her spine.

The $500,000 project - which will include an elevator and home gym - is being brought to reality thanks to a host of help from contractors, suppliers and individuals Williams knows through his work as owner of local plumbing firm The Ashton Service Group.

With about $100,000 left to raise, Williams gathered together those already involved on Wednesday to update them on the project's progress. He also had them view a video about Emily's inspiring story as she continues to be active in sports - the former hockey and soccer player is now competing in the swimming pool - and her positive outlook on life.

"She definitely has the drive to get up and go," said Williams following the screening of the video at the Steveston Community Centre that left few in the meeting room with a dry eye. "She's taking a difficult situation and turning it into a positive."

Williams first heard about Emily's situation from his friend, Man in Motion Rick Hansen, who wondered if Williams could help retrofit the bathroom in the DeBoer's home to make it accessible for Emily.

But after getting more details about Emily and her family, Williams decided to undertake a complete rebuild of the house and shared the story with business associates who pledged their support.

"It's just been a lot of like-minded people who want to make a difference," Williams said. "And one person tells another person and they can get creative, and sort of just pay it forward.

"It's really exciting."

Since the ball got rolling with a small circle of people and businesses the support for what is called Emily's Project has grown considerably. To date, 60 vendors are on board, and 30 or so more have donated money.

"Plus, with the amount of volunteers, I bet you we could probably multiply that to reach about 1,000 people," Williams said, adding the goal now is to raise the remaining $100,000 to pay for some hard costs to complete the project.

"We're getting really close," said Williams who, while he is constantly amazed by the outpouring of generosity, somehow was always confident the project would get done.

"I just kinda knew there was enough likeminded people in our city who can make a difference," he said. "So, I knew we could do it."

A roof-raising event is being planned for mid-June to celebrate that milestone in the project. Slated to attend is Hansen.

For more information on Project Emily, and a video of her story, scan this page with the Layar app or visit The website has a list of the donations still required, plus a link to a live video feed of the construction site.

Financial donations can also be made on the website using a credit card, and PayPal.

Cheques can be made out to Project Emily or the DeBoer House and mailed to: #140 4631 Shell Road, Richmond, BC V6X 3M4,