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Innovation From Tragedy

The Aqua Swivel Seat makes spa entry easier, safer

People fall in love with their hot tubs for many reasons. From the health benefits to the time spent with others, backyard spa experiences are memorable.

The hot tub love story of Tom and Donna Kelsey is a tale neither anticipated would sit so well with them, personally and professionally.

Tom has been a truck driver for 40 years, and when the couple owned a small trucking company, Donna helped with the paperwork. In 2013, Donna’s foot was severed in an accident involving the couple’s semi. Doctors were able to reattach it, and the life-altering incident sent Tom’s compassion and creativity swirling.

Donna and Tom Kelsey

“Since we had a hot tub, I knew I had to figure out a way to get her into it,” Tom says. He got the idea to make a rotating seat that eliminated the need for Donna to climb over the side, potentially further damaging her foot.

After nine years of research and development, in January the Kelseys launched their patented Aqua Swivel Seat, an adjustable attachment for any hot tub that rotates 360 degrees and allows anyone to safely enter the spa water. They envision it helping senior citizens, military veterans and recovering athletes, and will never forget the personal story that spawned the innovation.

“I never imagined something so helpful could have come out of something so terrible,” Donna says. “But thanks to God and Tom, we have a product that will help a lot of people recover through aqua therapy.”

Goodall Pools & Spas in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, was one of the first hot tub dealers to preorder the Aqua Swivel Seat. The seat has a 400-pound capacity and features an adjustable side clamp. A pair of aluminum legs extend to the floor outside the tub, and another pair rests on the seat inside the spa.

“Within the past couple years, we realized there was a need for a product like this within our company,” says Katelyn Zook, marketing and product manager at Goodall. “We had new and existing customers express concern over getting into their hot tub with standard spa steps and railings.”

Tom says the biggest obstacles to bringing his vision to market were locating a manufacturer and finding partners who would get it out to the public. After reaching out to several companies, the Kelseys secured a manufacturing agreement in February 2020 with Butler Mobility Products, a manufacturer of accessibility products for more than 60 years out of its Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, headquarters. In addition to Goodall Pools & Spas, partnerships have been secured with Spa Kingdom in Fruitland Park, Florida, and Texas Leisure Pools and Spas in Hurst, Texas.

The hot tub version of the Aqua Swivel Seat retails for $725. (Less expensive models are available for showers and bathtubs.) Spa dealers interested in the Aqua Swivel Seat can contact sales@aquaswivelseat.com.

Leven Pendergrass, owner of Texas Leisure, says some of his elderly customers are anxious about entering their spas. Tom and Donna’s story persuaded Pendergrass to bring their product into his store.

“We are a family-centered business, and we like to support other family businesses,” Pendergrass says. “The fact that this was invented by a family member, for a family member sealed the deal.”

Tom credits the prototype for helping accelerate Donna’s recovery through aquatic therapy. She was able to rely less on prescription drugs, and more on affection and relaxation. Her recovery has gone well enough that Tom’s been able to remain on the road; he’s hauling plants for Dudley Nursery out of Thomson, Georgia. “Donna and I never imagined she would walk again, let alone have such a product that will help so many others,” Tom says. “It’s exhilarating just knowing all the hard work is finally going to make a difference.”