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Family Gets Backyard Makeover

Lisa Duncan of St. Petersburg won an online contest affiliated with an HGTV show for a $15,000 backyard makeover.

ST. PETERSBURG – When Lisa Duncan and her husband Marco Thayer bought their piece of the American dream in a quiet middle class subdivision, the couple could never take advantage of the backyard.

“It was unusable,” Duncan said.

Overgrown and overloaded with nasty sandspurs, there was no way the backyard could be used to host guests or even play games with daughter Sarah. About the only thing the backyard was used for was a rusted-out storage shed.

“It was a tetanus shot waiting to happen,” HGTV host Justin Cave quipped of the shed.

So when Duncan gave birth to her second child, Serena, not quite two years ago, she wanted to make it a safe place for her daughters to play with their friends, or at least be able to enjoy it herself.

“There was no fence; I could see my neighbors all time,” Duncan said.

Surfing Facebook one day, roughly a year ago, Duncan happened upon a contest for a backyard makeover, launched by Wayfair.com in association with Cave of HGTV fame.

Duncan, along with 13,000 others, entered the Wayfair.com's “$15,000 Battle Your Blah Backyard.” Judges, including Cave, literally went through each entry one-by-one, but it was Duncan's that tugged at their hearts.

Duncan pushed the fact she was a stay-at-home mom with two daughters. Between the time she devoted to her family and the fact that her family was a one-income household, crafting a backyard themselves was almost out of the question.

It didn't hurt that Duncan made clear she wanted a safe backyard for her daughters to play in.

The sales pitch worked, as did the desperate condition of her backyard.

For the past five days, local contractors hired by Wayfair.com worked feverishly to remake Duncan's backyard. It now includes a patio, a large table that doubles as a fire pit (sort of a suburban campfire), landscaped foliage, new grass sod, a new storage shed, a new barbecue grill, lawn furniture, a privacy fence and a place for a vegetable garden.

Oh, and wind chimes, too.

“Lisa said she wanted something where she could grow her own vegetables and be more organic for her daughters,” Cave said.

All of this went on while Duncan and her family still lived at home, but they promised not to watch.

“It killed me not to look,” Duncan said. “I didn't peek at all. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, I wanted to peek at the presents.”

The new backyard was unveiled to Duncan and her family Tuesday at noon. When the family walked through the gate for the first time to see their new backyard, the smiles and laughs and gasps and hugs were non-stop.

“It basically has doubled our living space,” Duncan beamed.

And how did she take advantage of such lavish surroundings?

Duncan dove into her new hammock, content with never getting up, wearing what seemed to be a permanent smile on her face.

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