Community dedicates dream home after death of former football star

The home was dedicated Sunday, April 22 (Source: Tucson News Now).
The home was dedicated Sunday, April 22 (Source: Tucson News Now).
Updated: Apr. 22, 2018 at 8:50 PM MST
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The community worked together to help the Berg family with their dream home.
The community worked together to help the Berg family with their dream home.

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - With a release of balloons and emotion, a dream home was celebrated as finished for a father who never got to see the finished product.

On Sunday, April 22, Stephen Berg's family, friends, and community, honored him by dedicating his dream home for his wife, Leslie, and their four children.

The only work being done Sunday, after months of effort and a labor of love, was the writing of messages by children sent up to the man who never got to physically see the result.

We've been following the story of Berg since January, with the campaign by relatives and friends to help him build a dream home in the Catalina Foothills, near Catalina Highway and Harrison Road.

Berg died March 20, before the dream home was able to be finished.

"Stephen and I were going to take our time and plan it out. It was going to be a project that lasted years," Leslie said. "Unfortunately, he never got better. His cancer just progressed and that time-frame went from being years to weeks."

Stephen Berg, once Tucson's top football prospect at Canyon Del Oro High School and an Arizona State University offensive lineman, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013 while he sought treatment for a blown-out knee.

Once thought he had beaten the cancer, he moved back to Tucson in 2017 and purchased the "fixer upper" home that was in need of a complete remodel for his family of six. However, those plans were derailed when the medical bills arrived.

Community members like Randy Jones pitched in to expedite the process.

"The first time we met I asked for a list of the things they wanted and what did they need. I tried to make a list of all those things," Jones said Sunday. "When I got up to leave he got up and shook my hand and said, 'I bet you've done this for a lot of people, haven't you?' I said, 'No, Stephen. Quite honestly, you're the first one.' He never doubted me. I scared the heck out of myself. I left thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into? I've got to deliver.' God sent the volunteers."

Jones helped gather materials for the home and organize the volunteers. The family also set up a GoFundMe page for donations.

He explained it was an easy process to get Leslie and Stephen the help they needed on the home.

"It moved people's hearts to hear about Stephen Berg and his family and the problems," he said. "All I had to do was tell the story and people showed up."

More than 300 volunteers stepped foot on the new property to give it a face-lift since our story aired in January, Jones explained. He said whole football teams showed up. Members of the Canyon Del Oro football team, Berg's former high school, showed up in early February to work.

"I just want to give them all hugs and tell them 'thank you,'" said Kathryn Ebert, Stephen's mother, talking about all the people who lent a helping hand.

She's certainly been thankful of the support over the last month, since her son died, that has been filled with, "Ups and downs. Good days and bad days."

But Sunday was a great day. A dedication of the new life ahead for her daughter-in-law, Leslie, and her grandchildren. They're expected to begin moving into the new home this week.

"It's such a relief. Such a blessing. Because I know that they will be okay here. With the support of their families and friends they'll be okay. It's going to be hard but they're going to survive," Ebert said.

A whole community watched their back during the building of this home. Their father's number 66 Sun Devil jersey, looming large and hung in their kitchen, will watch them from above.

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