Stepping Up When Others Won’t
By Michelle L. Cramer
At 21st Century Pools & Spas in upstate New York, now in its 39th year, every year has been a learning experience. “In large part, our market has been stagnant for a couple of decades,” says owner and founder Bob Sullivan. “We’re losing population and taxes are increasing, so we’ve had to work harder to strive for a bigger piece of the pie every chance we get. We work really hard at giving the consumer a better experience because this helps the industry and then, within the industry, we try to be the best in our market.”
21st Century has been involved with Make-A-Wish and similar organizations since its inception. The company had an opportunity to come through in a pinch when the original builder slated to begin a pool for a sick child became uncooperative.
“I committed to them and three or four weeks later, we installed an in-ground pool,” Sullivan says. It was a nearly $40,000 pool package, but by calling suppliers and working out deals, Make-A-Wish paid just $2,500. 21st Century has been working with Make-A-Wish ever since, meeting nearly a dozen needs to date.
For Angela Barta, Sullivan’s daughter and operations manager for the company, the most memorable charitable contribution 21st Century made was through Discover Your Hero, an organization that helps people with special needs. A couple of years ago, 21st Century was matched with Ryan, then 6, who has cerebral palsy and wanted a swim spa to help with his physical therapy. The company provided the swim spa at no cost to his family.
“Since getting that swim spa, not only have his physical therapists and other medical staff commented on his improvement, but he’s also been doing things like half marathons and 5Ks,” Barta says. “It’s improved their life as a family because they spend more time at home rather than traveling for his appointments. His ability to walk has increased because of the hot water therapy, and he’s able to do most of his exercises in the swim spa.”
Ryan’s family keeps 21st Century updated on his progress and activities. They have received videos of Ryan singing and playing guitar with his siblings, rock climbing and finishing his first 5K. Barta says they are lucky to be a part of it. “It’s more than just delivering a swim spa for him,” she says. “We have a connection with his entire family, and it’s really special.”