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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A helping hand for a healthy house
A Pasco High graduate plans to raise money to build his children an allergen-free home.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published July 28, 2007
The McDougal kids, from left: Sean, 7; Katie, 5; Grace, 2 1/2; Jeffrey, 8. Sean, Grace and Jeffrey have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
ST. PETERSBURG - One day he was an aspiring country singer, the next, he was painting houses.
That's how Greg McDougal sums up his response to learning that his newborn son had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The years to come would bring more worrying news. Two more of his four children would be similarly diagnosed.
The chronic disease that clogs the lungs and causes life-threatening lung infections would lead McDougal back to performing. A year and a half ago, the singer-turned-carpenter decided to produce a CD to raise money to build his children an allergen-free house.
Sunday, the former St. Petersburg resident and graduate of Pasco High School will perform songs from his CD at two Tampa Bay area churches, where offerings will be taken up to help with the house.
McDougal, 39, who lives in Tennessee with his wife, Diane, and their four children, had been enjoying a promising career in the country music business when, as he puts it, "life happened."
"My eldest son, Jeff, was born, and had a hole in his intestinal tract," he said. "That's when a guy is hit with a lot of questions."
His priorities changed. He had begun playing in nightclub bands right after high school and opened for a variety of acts, including the Bellamy Brothers at the Snake Rattle and Roll Concert in Pasco County. McDougal also was a roadie for the country group Blackhawk and had one of his songs recorded by John Michael Montgomery. He was pursuing a recording contract. With his son's illness, he decided to stay close to home.
"One day I was in the music business and the next day I was on a construction site," he said.
He came up with the idea for the allergen-free house two years ago after doctors discovered that Jeff's constant bouts of pneumonia were being triggered in part by a mold called aspergillus. The question was, how to pay for it?
"I simply begged God for the answer. I prayed really hard. That's what you do when the doctor says scary things about your child. God gave me the songs I ended up recording," said McDougal, who attends First Baptist Church of Mount Juliet, just outside Nashville.
Sunday, he'll perform songs from the CD, Work of a Carpenter - a collection of what he calls "Christian country music." The CD sells on his Web site, www.ahouseformy kids.com, for $15.
In the year and a half since he produced the work, McDougal says he has made about $10,000, after expenses such as production costs and clearing land donated for the home.
He plans to apply for a construction loan and begin building in about 60 days. The $150,000 house will have a French drain to keep water away from the foundation, hardwood flooring and a special air filtration system.
"Having the property has really helped us be in a place where we can have a few options and go forward," McDougal said. "A year and a half ago, I had no options."
Cystic fibrosis has forced the family to make adjustments to their lives. "We chose to homeschool. We don't go to restaurants where there is smoking. We don't go anywhere where there is smoking. We're real careful about dust or smoke in the air. We don't do carpet," McDougal said.
After they raise the money they need to build their three-bedroom, two-bath home, the McDougals hope to help others.
"We're planning on turning this whole thing into a nonprofit organization," McDougal said. "We hope to be visiting a lot of hospitals in the future and find other families that are having a hard time."