When Zach Peterson put his gloved hand on this year’s “Hands on a House” model Friday evening, he had a goal and a purpose in mind.
And it was that goal and purpose, and his Christian faith, that kept him going through almost 32 hours of competition to walk away as this year’s winner of the Reunion Celebration Hands on a House contest.
Peterson, who turned 18 Sept. 8, is the youngest to ever compete for the prize and he outlasted six other contestants, claiming victory at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
He decided to compete after the idea developed that the house could be auctioned or sold to help raise money for his good friend and distant cousin, Shylah Cutbirth, 17, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy five years ago.
“I told my mom when it was over, ‘If we were bringing this home, I wouldn’t have stayed in it,’” Peterson said. “But Shylah’s really special. I’ve known her all through school, and I’ve seen her condition getting slightly worse. I wanted to do this for her. I wanted to help.”
Cutbirth is scheduled to undergo a new treatment for the muscular dystrophy Oct. 26, but the treatment is still considered experimental and not covered by insurance. The treatment is expected to cost $7,000 and Peterson said they want to raise at least $2,500 with the house and other fund-raising efforts.
“The details are still being worked out on everything,” he said.
Those who would like more information about the fund-raiser can call Cutbirth’s mother, Tracy Collette, at (325) 200-5271.
Peterson said he felt “kind of bad” when the third and second place contestants dropped out Sunday.
“But I was relieved, too. It was tough. I wanted to see it through, but I was getting kind of worried,” Peterson said. “We’d gotten to know each other and they’re all really neat people. They were doing it for their kids, and they really wanted it.”
Charles Gilbert was the second-place winner and Bobbie Jordan came in third. The contest was sponsored by Coldwell Banker-Mark Campbell and Associates, Avalon Custom Homes and W.T. Harris Company Inc.
During the last 38 minutes of the contest, Peterson said, the contestants had to squat and keep their hand on the house. There were challenges all the way through. At one point, the contestants had to hold a tray with a glass of water on it. Also, as in past years’ contests, the contestants had to ask friends and family members to collect canned goods to be donated to Doers Ministries. The seven contestants collected 1,800 cans of food, but more than 600 of the donations were from Peterson’s friends and family.
Also, Peterson, dressed as Elvis, won a costume contest. Each challenge that he won earned him an additional 30-minute rest.
Both Peterson and Cutbirth are seniors at Brownwood High School. Peterson plans to enlist in the U.S. Army after graduation and has a goal of becoming an Army Ranger.
“That’s another thing,” he said. “I kept telling myself this is good training.”