INOLA — It’s been the buzz about town for months. Inola is doing – has done – it’s own version of extreme home makeover for one of its own, the Sontag family. The rural community has shown just how big the heart of a small town can be when people come together to help those in need.

Sisters Brittany and Cassie Sontag defied odds, first by being two members of the same household to contract an extremely rare blood disease, then by finding matching bone marrow donors and a chance for long-term survival.

Mother, Kathy — a single parent, put her life on hold to deal with her daughters’ illness. Sisters Deidre and Ashley also had their lives and plans dramatically affected. It’s not surprising that Inolans wanted to help the family during their time of crisis.

Inola did the usual. Fundraising dinners. Cards, letters, prayer, encouragement, and moral support in every shape and form.

Then a few friends decided to remodel in a bathroom due to mold that could threaten the girls’ stressed immune system when they returned home following their bone marrow transplants.

The project that started in that bathroom grew and turned into a home that had been completely gutted down to the frame work as the town pulled together to remodel from scratch.

Extreme makeover — Inola style.

There were no professional crews with television cameras documenting every hour of work and every obstacle faced during the remodeling phase.

There were just ordinary people, pulling together to do the impossible.

Friends and neighbors gave up evenings after for what became Inola’s labor of love.

They replaced plumbing fixtures, heating and air systems, and electric, along with eliminating the mold. They put up sheet rock. They hung new pictures, bought new mattresses and box springs, then covered them with new sheets and comforters.

Zach Rash became the coordinator who worked with contractors and organized volunteers while the town worked on deadline to have the home finished before the sisters returned from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where they had undergone treatment.

Last year, Brittany and Cassie were diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) — a life-threatening illness. The bone marrow transplants that could save their lives means a weakened immune system in the early months of their recovery. The girls’ faith in the face of this illness has been an inspiration to all who know them, according to friends, family and neighbors.

Medical science has given Brittany and Cassie a chance for complete recovery. But beyond science, even doctors will say there are measurable differences in those facing challenging health issues alone, and those facing the same challenges with the support of loved ones.

The sisters’ support system stretches beyond family and friends as an entire community has come together for a common cause.

Inola, in working together to make over the Sontag house, may have given the family more than just a beautiful new home in which to reside. The town has given the girls a foundation upon which to build healthy lives.

Friend Cindy Manning, who helped organize and coordinate the community project, said she has been amazed at the level of help from the community. She said as obstacles came up, miracles happened.

Area businesses donated goods while ordinary people donated labor. From bricklayers and electricians to anyone who could hang a picture or sweep a floor, there has been a chance for everyone to contribute.

And almost everyone has.

The Sontags will return to Ohio in January for additional medical treatment, but for now, they are home for the holidays.

It’s not one the Sontags or Inola will soon forget.

Inola gave the gift of labor and love, proving the size of a town does not determine the size of the heart that beats within that community.

Contact Joy Hampton at 341-1101 or at