Obese Ottawa man cleans pool for private access

An obese Ottawa man who placed an online ad offering to clean someone's pool in return for the right to swim there without the embarrassment of swimming in public has found the perfect spot thanks to a nearby family.

An obese Ottawa man who placed an online ad offering to clean someone's pool in return for the right to swim there without the embarrassment of swimming in public has found the perfect spot thanks to a nearby family — and he's already lost 10 pounds.

Leslie Duff, 40, weighs about 400 pounds after years of battling with weight problems. Duff wanted to get in shape and preferred swimming because he has "60-year-old" knees. But he found it embarrassing to use public pools. Worrying about what onlookers thought or said kept him from focusing on the task at hand.

On May 1 Duff posted an ad on the online classifieds site Kijiji, offering labour in return for private pool use, but received no responses.

But when he was interviewed in mid-May on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning about his ordeal, Duff received about 300 emails from Ottawa and all over the country.

Leslie Duff says the indoor pool is a good fit and the family's dogs coach him as he swims. (Courtesy Leslie Duff)

Duff said many people offered pools, while others said "if I had a pool, you'd be my guy."

Ultimately, the Campbell-Wynn family on Upper Dwyer Hill Road answered the call, just 10 minutes away from Duff's home.

Amy Campbell, a management consultant in labour relations, heard the interview and decided to help a man who she felt had shown "an entrepreneurial spirit — a really resourceful individual who's looking to improve himself."

Duff doesn't have to worry about privacy: The family of four's pool is indoors. In fact, it's Campbell and her husband Eric Wynn who have opened not just their home, but their bedroom. It's the only way to get to the pool.

"You do what you can to help people out," Campbell said.

"I've got a pool, he needs a pool. Why not?"

The pool is about 15 metres long and three metres wide.

Duff said it was a perfect fit right away — the couple and their teenagers are friendly, the location is good and, because it's indoors, he can continue swimming in the fall. "Every day I've come I've loved being here," he said.

Campbell said in return Duff has done the pool maintenance, which is good news for the kids. Pool work had been their chore.

Duff uses the pool four times a week and has increased from 20 laps a session to 70, has lost 10 pounds, and his knees feel better after swims.

The family is often busy with work, sports and music, but Duff always has company from the family pets — two rabbits, two dogs, and a pot-bellied, litter-trained pig named Hamlet.

"The pets greet me when I get here without judgment, perhaps," he said with a laugh. "As a matter of fact, there's a window here where the dogs will sit and watch me swim. For the first couple of days I even found that disconcerting, but I've come to quite appreciate the fact that they're coaching me on."