Yes, Kitty, there is a Santa Claus
Indiana pool pros provide good cheer by donating time and materials to restore grandma’s collapsed pool
A group of Indiana pool and spa professionals gave an Indianapolis grandmother a Christmas gift like no other after her inground swimming pool collapsed.
Kitty Smith used her life savings to buy her dream home at the age of 80. Although the inside of the house needed work, the property had the one feature she didn’t want to compromise on: a backyard pool she could enjoy with her 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In the summer of 2020, Smith’s backyard pool seemed like a real necessity and an outdoor safe haven for her family as the pandemic kept people from venturing far from home.
“They were here, swimming and playing. I can’t tell you how great that was. This has just been my dream my whole life,” Smith said.
But on a snowy night last winter, that dream became a nightmare when she looked out her back window and discovered that the walls of her pool had collapsed, sending crumbled concrete and shattered fiberglass into the large hole where once her pool had been.
“My whole body just started going numb and shaking. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Smith said.
The reason for the pool’s collapse wasn’t obvious. An engineering report indicated that a leak may have allowed the pool’s water level to drop too low, leading to the collapse. Further, the report suggested that a poorly placed pool cover,
Ray Arouesty, insurance broker and attorney to the pool and spa industry reflects on 40 years of swimming pool claims, lawsuits and mishaps. See story on page 16. combined with the low water level, may have put too much stress on the pool walls.
It was a total loss. Adding insult to injury, Smith got more bad news when her insurance company told her it wouldn’t pay a penny for the damage. Smith has had the same insurance company for 40 years and was paying for a policy that included the replacement cost of the inground pool, but an insurance adjustor explained that any kind of leak in the pool was excluded from coverage.
“He said to me, ‘I’m so sorry. I love to pay claims…but we can’t pay yours,’” Smith said.
Smith was further heartbroken to learn that the cost of a new pool would be about $80 thousand — $20 thousand for the cleanup and $60 thousand for the replacement. And after putting everything she had into buying the house in the first place, it was a price tag she simply could not afford.
With nowhere else to turn, she contacted her local news channel, NBC affiliate WTHR 13 Investigates, to see if they could look further into the collapse to see who was ultimately responsible for the cost of the repair. But months of research and phone calls proved that it might take years to get to the bottom of it, leaving Smith without a pool for her grandkids while she waited for a different result.
So the news channel reached out to members of the pool and spa industry to see if anyone might be willing to help. The trick was to find someone with the right kind of connections, and after a few months, a group of eight Indiana companies developed a plan to solve Smith’s problem.
Michael Shebek, owner of Westfieldbased Automatic Pool Covers, contacted his extensive network of pool industry installers and suppliers, and after he told them about Smith’s problem, the response was overwhelming.
It didn’t take long to assemble a crew of workers and companies willing to donate the materials, time, and labor to get the job done.
Shebek asked APC vice president Mike Shadoan to plan the project so that all the details were covered.
“I think it’s a perfect time to help somebody out like this,” Shadoan said. “All these people are willing to donate their time and effort for free just to help somebody they don’t even know. It’s pretty amazing.”
According to 13News, the following companies will be working together to rebuild Granny Smith’s new pool:
• Automatic Pool Covers will provide a new pool cover and other assistance for the project, Shadoan said.
• C Ray Pools of Plainfield will assist with plumbing and electrical work. “We’ll help wherever we’re needed,” said owner Chris Ray.
• Cover Care in Westfield will install the pool cover, according to company operations director Jacob Bloss.
• Crone Custom Pools in Greenwood will serve as project lead, managing the on-site project. Pablo Crone told 13News he will apply for all required permits, oversee removal of the collapsed pool and installation of the new one, and upgrade landscaping around the pool when it is completed.
• Hendrick Pool and Lawn Service in McCordsville is overseeing plumbing work for the new pool, according to company owner Jonathan Hendrick.
• Modish Pools in Westfield will donate concrete and labor needed to complete the concrete decking, confirmed project manager Ryan Hubert.
• Only Alpha Pool Products based in Fort Wayne is donating the steel walls, said the company’s chief financial officer, Todd Epple.
• Pools of Fun in Plainfield will donate and install the pool liner and provide the water to fill the swimming pool, company vice president of sales and marketing Tyler Hermon told 13News.
Just days before Thanksgiving, the swimming pool contractors met outside Smith’s house to tell her what they were going to do for her. Walking to her front door, she was astonished to see her lawn filled with the men.
Shadoan told her the good news. “We will pitch in and chip in and between all of us, make sure this happens,” Shadoan said. “You’re going to get a whole new backyard with a new pool…and this should cost you zero.”
Smith stepped outside and greeted each one of them with a hug.
“I don’t know your names, but I know your hearts,” she said. “You’re what we need in this world – not for me, for everyone. Thank you!”
The contractors were only happy to be able to give, and the full value of their donation is estimated to be approximately $90 thousand. They hope to have the pool completed by the spring.
“Just no words. There aren’t words big enough to thank everyone,” Smith said. “I’m just so thankful.”