A summer in San Antonio, Texas, is hot. From June through September, the average high temperature reaches above 90°F. Needless to say, locals take advantage of any opportunity to cool down, even if their methods are a bit unconventional.
For one Lone Star State family, that meant transforming their red pickup truck’s bed into a pool for their kids in the summer of 2016. They laid a tarp down so that the water wouldn’t flood out of the cracks in the bed. They looped a rope through the tarp’s edges and through the truck’s hubcaps, too, to keep the pool in place.
Then they innocently filled their makeshift pool with water, undoubtedly delighting the small children who splashed around in the pickup truck’s bed. Sure, it wasn’t the most beautiful neighborhood pool that Texas had ever seen, but in the summer’s heat, no one seemed to be complaining.
Perhaps that’s why the day a man showed up on that family’s doorstep came as a complete surprise. He didn’t know them, but he had seen the children playing in their pool. And this stranger had something unexpected that he wanted to give them.
It’s unclear whether the family knew that their inventive play space had become an internet sensation by the time this man came knocking. But someone else – not the stranger on their doorstep – had seen their kiddos splashing around in the pickup. That person had then snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook.
And the person who posted the photo did so not to laud the creative parents behind the contraption. Nor did they do it to revel in the fact that kids can find joy in the simplest things. “Only in the West will you see some **** like this,” they wrote, adding a few laughing emoticons to set the negative mood.
With that, the image did the rounds. More and more people saw the photo and added their own insults to the original post. By the time Todd Arredondo happened to see the image on his feed, it was laden with negativity that broke his heart.
“People were writing things like, ‘Way to teach your kids to be poor,’” Arredondo told Us Weekly. He also told Today that the Facebook post was ripe with “demoralizing” messages. One called the pictured family “lazy.” Another said that they were “raising kids to love being poor.”
He carried on to Us Weekly, “I didn’t see anyone say, ‘Hey, look at this mother. Look at this family trying to keep their kids cool, despite this situation.’” “[The post] literally brought tears to my eyes,” Arredondo admitted to Today.
It was also in that heart-wrenching moment that he knew he had to do something to change the narrative surrounding this family. Arredondo started where his story began: Facebook. He hoped that he could use the social media site to track down the pictured family.
He wrote a post of his own on June 14, 2016: “If anyone knows this family or where this is, let me know. I guess [the original poster] posted this to make fun of [them] but I see it different. I see a mother having some fun with her kids, also a mother interacting with her kids.” He went on: “I can’t say that for 3/4 of the mothers I know… I applaud her.”
With almost 100 likes and 60 shares, it only took him one day to find out who they were and where they lived. He needed to reach out to the children’s mother for this information because he didn’t plan to send his positive vibes digitally: he had a gift he wanted to deliver to them himself.
Arredondo, who owns a jewelry business in his native San Antonio, took money out of his own pocket in order to fund what he wanted to do next. He went to the store, bought a brand new inflatable pool for the family and took it round to their house.
He told Us Weekly just how wonderful it felt to knock on the family’s door and give them the pool. “The kids were so happy and wanted to help fill it with air,” he said. “The parents wholeheartedly expressed their appreciation and thankfulness. They’re very, very humble people.”
But, for some reason, Arredondo did not feel as though he had completely answered his call to help families in the San Antonio area with this one good deed. Instead, he decided to use this moment to kick-start his own charitable project called Pools for Kids.
He set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his simple campaign to provide pools to families like the one he helped. Families who otherwise would not be able to afford such a fun and cooling activity for their kids. He reached out to Facebook friends again to see if they knew anyone else who might want a free pool for their family.
Within one week, he had raised more than $1,200 for pools, sprinklers and slip-n-slides. They were all for families whose leases barred them from setting up a full-on pool. He even reached out to local amusement parks for their help in making day trips more affordable for these families.
As of the summer of 2017, Arredondo’s GoFundMe page has raised more than $20,000, and his story has made national headlines. In his most recent update to Pool For Kids’ funding page, he said he has gifted more than 200 swimming pools thanks to the donations he received. He has also helped send more than 12 families to the nearby water park.
As we should come to expect from Arredondo, though, he was not content to stop there, either. In the same post, he said he planned to drive all the way from Texas to California where he would be delivering between 100 and 200 more pools to children there, too.
One can only imagine how rewarding his journey has been and will continue to be. He told Us Weekly that some of the kids he’d helped planned to pay it forward by building their own lemonade stand. “They said, ‘We want to help raise money to buy a pool for another family,’” he recounted. “And that’s what this journey is all about.”