Thanksgiving miracle: Indy’s entrepreneurs give grandma a new pool

A great-grandmother had a surprise for Thanksgiving that she will never forget. Bob Segall explains how a disaster in the backyard turned into an unexpected gift from strangers.

INDIANAPOLIS – At the age of 80, Kitty Smith decided it was time to buy her dream home.

Smith knew the interior of the South Indianapolis home required a lot of work, but what she had always hoped for was in the backyard: an inground pool that she could enjoy with her 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She used her savings to buy the house, and last summer – as a pandemic raged across the country – the backyard pool was a safe outdoor haven for Smith and his grandchildren.

“They were here, swimming and playing. I can’t tell you how awesome it was. It has been my dream my whole life, ”she told 13News.

But that dream quickly shattered.

In February, after a night of snowfall, Smith looked out a back window to find that his pool had suddenly turned into a large hole filled with crumbling concrete and shattered fiberglass. The walls of her pool had collapsed, sending Kitty into shock.

“My whole body started to go numb and shake. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, ”Smith said, fighting back tears as she gazed at the rubble that still lies in her backyard nine months later.

Favorite and another surprise

It’s hard to say exactly what happened after Kitty hired a pool company to shut her pool down for the winter.

An engineering report suggests the collapse may have been caused by a leak that allowed the pool’s water level to drop too low. It also raises questions about the placement of a newly installed pool cover and whether this, combined with the low water level in the pool, created too much stress on the pool walls.

Whatever the cause, Smith’s backyard dream had turned into a backyard disaster.

“Since February I have had to watch this every day and for me it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Adding to this grief, Smith learned that his home insurance policy would be useless. Although she had the same insurance company for four decades and paid for a policy that included the value of the replacement cost for the inground pool, Smith was devastated to find that her insurance company would not pay. not a dime for the disaster. Any type of leakage in the structure of the swimming pool is excluded from the cover. An insurance adjuster broke the bad news.

“He said, ‘I’m so sorry. I like paying claims… but we can’t pay yours, ”Smith recalls. “I’m hurt by the way I just got swept under the rug.”

Smith was faced with an intimidating decision: give up her dream or shoulder the enormous costs of a new swimming pool. She learned that the price for a replacement pool would be $ 60,000, plus an additional $ 20,000 just to clean and transport the old one.

” I can not do it. I can’t, ”Smith said. “I put everything I had to buy this house. All.”

Kitty shared her story with 13 Investigates this spring to see if 13News could dig in and find out who is ultimately responsible for the collapse. Months of research and phone calls revealed it would take years to get to the bottom of the complicated situation, leaving Smith with a large hole in his backyard – not a pool for the grandchildren – awaiting a resolution.

So 13News shared Smith’s story with people who know a thing or two about swimming pools, and they developed a remarkable plan to make things right for a woman they had never met.

Strangers come to Kitty Smith’s rescue

Over the past few months, a group of eight Indiana companies have agreed to come together to resolve Smith’s dilemma.

Michael Shebeck, owner of Automatic Pool Covers of Westfield, took the lead in contacting his extensive network of installers and suppliers to the swimming pool industry. When Shebeck informed them of Smith’s plight and asked if they would be willing to help, the response was overwhelming. Many companies immediately agreed to volunteer time, labor and materials.

Within weeks, Shebeck had achieved her ultimate goal: hiring enough companies to replace Smith’s collapsed pool with a brand new one – at no cost to her.

He asked APC Vice President Mike Shadoan to work out the details to make sure all aspects of the project were covered.

“I think now is the perfect time to help someone like this,” Shadoan told 13News. “All of these people are willing to give their time and effort for free just to help someone they don’t even know. It is quite amazing.

Contributing companies include:

  • Crone Customs Pools in Greenwood will serve as the project manager, managing the project on-site. Pablo Crone told 13News he would apply for all required permits, oversee the collapsed pool removal and installation of the new one, and modernize the landscaping around the pool once it is complete.
  • Only Alpha Pool products Fort Wayne-based donates the steel walls, said company chief financial officer Todd Epple.
  • Pleasure pools in Plainfield will donate and install the pool liner and supply the water to fill the pool, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing Tyler Hermon told 13News.
  • Trendy swimming pools Westfield will donate the concrete and labor to complete the concrete decking, confirmed project manager Ryan Hubert.
  • Hendrick pool and lawn service in McCordsville is overseeing the plumbing work for the new pool, according to business owner Jonathan Hendrick.
  • C-ray pools de Plainfield will assist with the plumbing and electrical work. “We’ll help where we need it most,” said owner Chris Ray.
  • Automatic swimming pool covers will provide new pool cover and other assistance for the project, Shadoan said.
  • Cover maintenance in Westfield will install the pool cover, according to the company’s operations manager, Jacob Bloss.

Some companies are in fact competitors, but not for this project.

“It’s really cool for all of our local pool businesses to come together. I don’t know if this has ever been done to Indy before, ”Hermon said.

“At this point we’re just trying to prove to everyone that we’re stronger together,” echoed Crone.

“It’s just about doing the right thing, being a good neighbor, stepping in and helping someone when they need help,” Hubert added.

A $ 90,000 surprise

Days before Thanksgiving, the entrepreneurs joined 13News to share the good news with Smith.

As she walked to the front door and saw her lawn full of pool contractors, the grandmother whispered “Oh my God” and covered her face. She then came down from her porch and greeted each stranger with a hug.

“I don’t know your names but I know your hearts,” she said, also telling the entrepreneurs: “I love you.”

“We will participate and contribute among all of us, make sure that happens,” Shadoan promised. “You’re going to have a whole new garden with a new swimming pool… and it should cost you nothing. “

The actual value of the group’s donation – including installing the new pool and removing the old one – is around $ 90,000, he said.

“You are what we need in this world – not for me, for everyone. Thanks! ”Smith replied.

Weather permitting, work on Smith’s new pool will take place over the next few months to ensure it is ready by spring.

Smith told 13News the donation was an answer to his prayers. Entrepreneurs say it’s a reminder for all of us of the power to give.

“It’s really cool. It’s nice to give back,” said Hendrick.

“I just wanted to help someone,” agreed Ray, who attended the announcement with sons Chris and Steven.

After giving each of the contractors another hug and saying goodbye to them, Smith returned to her garden to look at the mess that will soon be eliminated.

“Just no words. There aren’t words big enough to thank everyone,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”