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House of CNN Hero gets an 'Extreme Makeover'

  • Story Highlights
  • Thousands of volunteers rebuilt CNN Hero Maria Ruiz's home for ABC show
  • CNN had honored Ruiz for bringing food and supplies to poor children in Mexico
  • Finishing construction on her home had taken a back seat to her charitable work
  • New home will be revealed March 15 on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
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EL PASO, Texas (CNN) -- CNN Hero Maria Ruiz has been changing the lives of children and their families in Juarez, Mexico, for more than 12 years. But lately, it's been Ruiz's own life that's been changing.

Maria Ruiz was named a CNN Hero for her efforts to bring food to impoverished children in Mexico.

Crews prepare to demolish Maria Ruiz's home as part of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

In November, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" honored Ruiz for crossing the Texas border to Juarez several times a week to deliver food, clothing and toys to impoverished children and their families. Months later, Ruiz and her family received another surprise, courtesy of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Ruiz, her husband and their two children were sent on a five-day vacation to the Bahamas while thousands of volunteers built the family a custom-designed home.

"When Ty Pennington came to our home and said, 'Ruiz family, come on out,' we all just ran out and couldn't believe that we were chosen," Ruiz said. "It's a blessing to us, but we weren't expecting all of this at all, and it has been overwhelming."

Pennington is the host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which selected Ruiz and her family from thousands of applicants throughout Texas. Pennington said the idea was to give Ruiz what she needed most: the tools to do more. Video Watch Ruiz and her family react to their new home »

In addition to bringing supplies to the people of Juarez, Ruiz and her family are completing construction of a complex there, which includes a community kitchen, an orphanage and a trade school. Read more about Ruiz's work

In order to devote their time to the Juarez community, the family put construction of their own home on hold in 1996, Ruiz said, leaving many parts unfinished. They were also using much of their living space as a warehouse for all of the donations for the Juarez families, she said.

"A home is somewhere you can go after a long day's work and relax and where the family can get together and be able to sit down and talk about our day," Ruiz said. "When we had the things in the living room, we couldn't do that there."

Upon returning from the Bahamas, Ruiz and her family were surrounded by thousands of volunteers and community members who blocked them from seeing the changes by the show's large bus. After chanting the show's coined phrase -- "Move that bus!" -- Ruiz and her family were introduced to their new home.

"For us, it is a new beginning, and it's going to change our lives," Ruiz said.

With her new home, Ruiz will be able to continue -- and even expand -- her family's work for those in need.

According to Executive Producer Anthony Dominici, both an additional kitchen and storage space were built in the new home for Ruiz. And "through the generosity of the community," enough donations of food, clothes and toys were collected to fill a 20-foot shipping container and a 16-foot cube truck -- including more than 75,000 cans of food, Dominici said.

"That's the whole point here," Pennington said. "To give her what she needs to make her life easier to literally spread dreams and hope to people who have absolutely none of either one of those."

For Ruiz, it's about teaching young minds so they can in turn give back to their community.

"If you teach them and train them as a child and they go out and do the same, we would live in a much better world."

"CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" introduced Ruiz to the world when it premiered on Thanksgiving on the global networks of CNN. Actress Selena Gomez introduced and presented Ruiz with her CNN Hero award. Each of the top 10 CNN Heroes also received $25,000. Video Watch Ruiz accept her CNN Hero Award »


Nominations for 2009 CNN Heroes opened January 1 and can be submitted at

The Ruiz family episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is scheduled to air March 15.

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