Emotional homecoming: Staten Island teen with rare skin disease gets 'smart home'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The family of a Staten Island teenager with a rare disability received a special gift Wednesday -- a new home.

John Hudson Dilgen suffers from a rare skin condition, and thanks to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, he now has a new "smart home" to help him lead a better life.

It was an emotional homecoming for the family as they received the keys to the mortgage-free home, which offered more than a new beginning.

"I've waited so long to be independent, and I can't believe that I finally have a home that is not only accessible but has smart technology," Dilgen said. "And that's going to help me and my whole family."

The smart home was designed specifically with the 15-year-old in mind. Dilgen's skin condition, called epidermolysis bullosa, prevents his skin from adhering to his body. That means it blisters and tears at the slightest touch.

"There's nothing smart about my old house," he said. "My toilet runs all the time. Almost all the windows don't close."

Before the Stephen Sillers Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped up build the new home, Diligen and his family were just grateful for the money they raised for specific upgrades. All of that is now is now over.

"This young man deserves this," Tunnel to Tower CEO Frank Siller said.

The home has many technological advances.

"A driveway for my nurses to park in, an elevator that allows me access to all three floors," Dilgen said. "There will be radiant heat in my treatment room, and my siblings finally get a closet."

And Dilgen made it clear that this Thanksgiving blessing is for his whole family.

"I also like to thank my family, my parents and my siblings, because they deserve this just as much as I do," he said tearfully.

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