Pool contractors surprise grandma by giving her new swimming pool after her old one collapsed

Kitty Smith, 80, decided it was the right time to buy her dream home.

The house was located in south Indianapolis and needed extensive renovations. But the backyard had what she wanted: an in-ground pool. Before purchasing the property, she could already picture all the fun her 29 grandchildren or great-grandchildren would have.

Smith spent her entire life savings to purchase the house. Her backyard pool became an outdoor safe place for her grandkids and her loving grandma last summer as the pandemic spread across America.

screenshot: 11 Alive

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

Unfortunately, the dream was quickly crushed when the pool was destroyed in February after a night of snow.

Smith was shocked to see her swimming pool turned into a large hole with concrete and fiberglass when she looked out the back window. The walls of her pool had collapsed.

“My whole body just started going numb and shaking. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Smith recalled of her reaction to the rubble in her backyard.

It’s hard to tell exactly what happened after the homeowner hired a pool company to close up her pool for the winter. An engineering report says it may have collapsed because of a leak that allowed the pool’s water level to drop too low. The new cover was placed on top of the pool and could have put too much stress on its walls, causing it to collapse.

Regardless of the culprit, Smith’s dream had turned into a disaster. She has been unable to look at the mess since February and it breaks her heart.

Kitty Smith's grandchildren swimming in her in-ground backyard swimming pool
screenshot: 11 Alive

Adding to her disappointment is learning that her homeowners’ insurance policy wouldn’t pay a dime for it, despite having the same insurance company for over 40 years and paying for a policy that included replacement cost value for the in-ground pool. Any type of pool leakage is not covered.

“I’m hurt by the way I’ve just been swept under the carpet,” she said.

She was faced with two choices: either she let go of her dream, or she had to pay for a new pool. Smith discovered that a replacement pool would cost $60,000 plus $20,000 to remove and clean up the old one. However, she couldn’t afford it because she had already put everything she had into buying the house.

Smith shared her story with 13 Investigates to see if 13News could help her figure out who’s responsible for the collapse. However, Smith was told that it could take years to get to the bottom this complicated situation.

So, 13News shared her story with some folks knowledgeable about swimming pools, and they created a plan to rebuild the heartbroken grandma’s pool.

A collapsed in-ground backyard swimming pool
screenshot: 11 Alive

Over the past few months, eight Indiana companies have come together to solve Smith’s dilemma.

Automatic Pool Covers’ owner Michael Shebek took the initiative and reached out to his network of pool industry suppliers. He told them about Smith’s plight and asked if they would be willing to help, and many of them agreed to volunteer.

Within a few weeks, Shebek had received commitments from enough companies to replace Smith’s damaged pool with a brand new one—and they would do it all for free.

“I think it’s a perfect time to help somebody out like this,” said Mike Shadoan, the vice president of APC. “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.”

While some of the companies may be competitors, they chose to ignore that fact for this project. A few days prior to Thanksgiving, the contractors joined 13News to tell Smith the good news.

Kitty Smith and the contractors who volunteered to replace her swimming pool for free
screenshot: 11 Alive

As she walked out of her front door and saw the swimming pool contractors in her lawn, Smith whispered, “Oh my God,” and covered her face. She stepped onto her porch and gave each volunteer a hug.

“I don’t know your names but I know your hearts. I love you,” she told them.

The value of the group’s donation is approximately $90,000, including the installation of the new pool and the removal of the old one.

“You’re what we need in this world – not for me, for everyone. Thank you!” Smith said.

When the weather permits, the contractors will work on Smith’s new pool over the next few months so that it will be ready by springtime.

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

You can see the video below to learn more about this amazing Thanksgiving story.

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