Track star sisters surprised by beautiful home makeover

The incredible apartment makeover left the girls and their mom speechless.

ByABC News
May 16, 2017, 5:12 PM

— -- It’s the stuff that usually only Hollywood could dream up -- three adorable girls and their single mom, homeless after losing the only home any of the girls could remember.

Inside of a year, the Sheppard sisters, all budding track stars, are featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That brought an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”

After their appearance, none other than Tyler Perry offered to pay their rent for two years so that they could move out of the shelter -- and mom, Tonia Handy, could get the family back on its feet.

On May 10, the family was surprised to see their new apartment beautifully remodeled on “The View.”

“It was perfect!” Handy said. “I could not believe it.”

The family was so grateful to see their beautiful new apartment after spending eight months in a shelter and weeks in a bare apartment, sleeping on air mattresses.

The family first came to the attention of “The View” in August 2016 when all three sisters were competing for gold at the Junior Olympics.

In their first appearance on the show in November, they told the heartbreaking story of still living in the shelter while competing in track and field, the loss of their home of nine years still raw.

“I never thought we would have to leave,” Handy said at the time.

“It’s really hard for us,” 9-year-old Tai said. “We would have to keep packing and unpacking.”

“We would have to keep moving around,” Brooke, 11, said. “I would be tired all day and I was also really hungry.”

Handy, who was working for minimum wage at the time, struggled with the situation. “They are the light of my life. … I feel weighed down sometimes but I try not to give that to the girls.

“My biggest fear right now is that they would give up on me and I guess lose hope in my ability to take them further than this,” Handy added.

The girls’ hard work and success in track and field drew the attention of Sports Illustrated, which decided to feature them in the kids’ edition of the magazine. “The View” surprised the sisters during their appearance by showing them their never-before-seen Sports Illustrated Kids cover on the jumbotron in Times Square.

Additionally, activewear brand Fabletics funded $40,000 for track team expenses, a $10,000 check for the family and gift cards for the team.

After the show, Perry called “The View” to express his desire to find a place for the Sheppard family to live. Perry also promised to pay the girls’ track team’s expenses and the family’s rent for the next two years.

“I couldn't believe it, it’s such a nice house,” Handy said of the apartment she found in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. She expressed her pleasure with her daughters’ easy commute to school.

The lift gave Handy a chance to focus even more on getting a better job.

After seeing the family’s first appearance on “The View,” many reached out to help Handy find a new job and a family a new place to live -- but ultimately Handy secured her family’s newest chapter on her own; she was hired to work in an area hospital with health benefits and better pay.

“This is definitely a jump start in the right direction,” Handy said.

On May 10, in a second appearance on “The View,” she caught the ladies up on their lives -- and the family learned Perry had one more surprise for them.

Perry delivered much more than funding their new home -- the family would no longer have to sleep on blow-up mattresses in their bare apartment -- it was transformed.

The family believed that for the three days ahead of their appearance, “The View” was hosting them in a hotel room for their apartment to be repainted. But ABC News actually arranged for interior designer Mike Harrison to make over the entire two-bedroom apartment, with $5,000 from Perry.

The incredible apartment facelift left the girls and their mom speechless.

“It’s amazing!” Handy said.

After two nights in the apartment, the deserving family was still overwhelmed with joy.

“I just kept thinking about how beautiful everything looked,” Handy said of returning to her redecorated home. “We were all so excited.”

She was most entranced by “how detailed” Harrison was: “The details, when I walked in, was amazing! It was just … not real.”

“They were really emphasizing the paint job,” Handy said of conversations she had with Harrison around redecorating. “I didn’t know!”

Handy recalled telling Harrison “I’m a beige-y kinda girl -- really bland! If I wanted to put color anywhere, it would be in spots.” Harrison kept this in mind by hanging “a picture of a spot of red on my wall,” said Handy. “It’s so classy! It’s so great.”

Harrison also noted Handy believes “the sexiest things about Brooklyn apartments are the fire escapes!” Harrison installed a plant holder in the shape of a miniature fire escape on her bedroom wall.

The sweetest additions to the décor were gifts from Handy’s friend Carl. His candle holders and statue figures in yoga poses (that represent the young family) were worked into the apartment’s aesthetic.

Handy said her three daughters were happy to have their own room after sleeping together for almost two years.

“They haven’t come into my room,” Handy said. “It’s unbelievable! I thought they would still want to sleep in my bed!”

“It feels open to them,” Handy added. “There’s no bickering … It's like they have their own little apartment.”

Handy shared a delightful story about Brooke, 11, working on a project for school, which took over the entire bedroom floor.

“I didn’t hear one argument about it!” Handy said. “It’s so beautiful how they get along and maneuver around each other.”