Thanks to Christian Youth Corps Inc. (CYC), a Machias, N.Y.-based charity, the Galyons will soon have a new home custom built to accommodate all their unique needs. The residence will be attached to and essentially double the size of their younger brother Jim's home just outside of Dayton, Ohio.
The twins, who are attached at the abdomen and face each other, currently live in a small home about four miles from Jim and his wife, Mary. The couple has cared for Ronnie and Donnie since 1991, when they ended a long career of exhibiting themselves in sideshows. Having earned plenty of money from curious onlookers, they were able to buy their own place.
With age has come added weight along with weakened muscles and joints, making care for them increasingly more difficult. "They're at the point now where just getting to a restroom is very, very hard on them, quite frankly," Jim said. "It's hard just to walk that 10 paces to get there."
The 936-square-foot addition will feature 4-foot-wide hallways and doorway entrances to allow space for their new custom-made wheelchair. Extra support in the floor will bear the added heft of the chair, which weighs nearly 360 pounds. The twins themselves weigh just over 400 pounds.
The bathroom is entirely customized with a specially designed toilet farther away from the wall and an extra large shower facility. A tailor-made bed is being built from the ground up, designed with two adjustable, lifting heads allowing the twins to sleep at the same time. Currently, one has to sit up while the other sleeps.
Suddenly, life's most basic tasks will require considerably less effort.
"When we take on a project, we look down the road at what's going to happen over the next few years," CYC founder and president Pete Andrews told AOL News. "With Ronnie and Donnie, mobility will be a real problem. We decided we needed to address issues that will be coming up as well."
To that end, an overhead railing system will be installed above the bed to help them into their wheelchair, and if needed, take them to the toilet or shower.
"This can take care of them for years in advance," Andrews said. "So in a couple years they can become the oldest living conjoined twins in [history]. Our goal is to give them a longer lifespan and a far better quality of life than they have currently."
It'll take just over four years to surpass Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous 19th-century Siamese twins, as history's oldest conjoined couple.
"They want very badly to beat Chang and Eng, and they're on their way," Jim Galyon said.
The project began after Jim and Mary decided to move Ronnie and Donnie in with them. "My wife is wonderful; Mary is a huge part of this. It was actually her bringing this up, saying, 'I think it's time that we move them in, baby,' " Jim said, adding that he never would have asked her to take that step.
Of course, simply moving them into their existing home wouldn't offer much relief. They needed space to accommodate them. Jim considered seeking out a loan for the extension, but a family friend was determined to find an organization that could help. An online search led her to the CYC.
"The day Pete met Ronnie and Donnie, and Mary and I and saw where they lived and the conditions, he said, 'We're on board -- we'll organize a task force and we'll make it happen.' "
So far they have. The project was announced in January and construction finally began several weeks ago. Over the weekend, 30 volunteers were outside pounding nails. Andrews himself took an eight-hour drive to help put up the trusses.
"Our goal with community projects is to rally the community around the recipient and set up a network in the location and empower the community to do the project," Andrews said.
"They are totally up, they're so upbeat, they're excited about getting into a home where they can have more freedom, frankly," Jim said of his brothers.
So far, the CYC has helped raise $12,000 from the general public and various foundations, churches and private donors. Still, plenty more is needed to help ensure the project's success. "Nobody's crying here, this is wonderful, it's happening, but it takes money," Jim said. "[The CYC] is trying to get some fundraisers to help and get some donations to help pay the bills. They're huge."
Andrews is confident the project will be finished. "We just need to give them a chance and the people will come through for Ronnie and Donnie," he said.
The construction is expected to be completed by mid-June.