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Owner and President, TNT General Contracting, age 37
Walt Tomala Jr. says the speed-building endeavors he’s participated in — everything from two local Extreme Makeover: Home Edition projects to a blitz-build event for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity — are in many ways a metaphor for how he lives his life.
In other words, he’s committed to simply not wasting a minute of his time. This attitude has enabled him to successfully balance his business, TNT General Contracting, with his family and especially his daughter, Lauren, and also his work in the community through those aforementioned projects, but also many others, especially his tireless service with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
But beyond maximizing his time, there is another common thread between Tomala’s extreme-building exploits and his own life. That would be the matter of dreams — making them, shaping them, and willing them to come true.
As a teenager, Tomala’s dream was to be a professional baseball pitcher, and he was on his way — he starred for Westfield High School — when a devastating shoulder and elbow injury took baseball out of the equation and forced him to recalibrate. He took work building and remodeling bowling centers, but a year into that job he was caught in a flash explosion when a sanding machine malfunctioned. He suffered third-degree burns over 60% of his body and spent a year in recovery and rehab.
Undaunted, he went back to building bowling centers, and eventually started his own construction company with a name, TNT, which has nothing to do with his family name, but everything to do with the explosion that nearly ended all his dreams.
Since then, he’s focused on other people’s dreams, from participating in the Extreme Makeover projects to designing and overseeing the blitz build for Habitat; from building four houses in a week for victims of the June 1, 2011 tornado to helping construct two homes for severely injured veterans.
Introduced to Make-A-Wish by his father when he was 13, Tomala has made that nonprofit one of his passions. And in 2000, the organization named him its volunteer of the year.
To say that he’s made the very most of all his time would be a huge understatement.
— George O’Brien