Dedicated Maid Faces the Prank of a Lifetime
Cara Simmons was no stranger to hard work. She worked as a maid to provide for her three kids, but she still struggled to pay her rent and other bills on time. In her service role, she was often taken for granted by homeowners, but she never once complained.
Little did she know that her dedication would soon result in something life changing. A major client decided to work with the reality TV show Prank It Forward to acknowledge Cara's hard work with some unbelievable surprises.
A Dedicated Mom
Cara Simmons took on backbreaking work as a maid in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. As a single mother, she had to put food on the table for her three kids. Cara worked for a cleaning company called Maid Brite to provide for her family.
Because she was the only financial provider for her family, Cara couldn't afford to take a day off. In fact, she hadn't missed a day of work in six years. After all, she had to pay for groceries, clothes, school supplies, rent and other bills. It was all worth it for her kids.
Although Cara was committed to her work for the sake of her kids, the stresses of life were starting to take a toll on her body. She developed ulcers and had to go to the hospital on multiple occasions. Of course, the medical bills that arrived soon afterward didn't help her stress levels.
A night in the hospital in Ohio could cost more than $2,000, which hurt Cara's finances in a major way. Those bills and others were beginning to pile up. Cara and her family even faced eviction a few times.
Cash Flow Issues
Sadly, according to a 2018 report from CNBC, medical bills are the biggest cause of financial strain and bankruptcies in the United States. The cost of quality medical care is shockingly high. That means that any serious medical condition, especially unanticipated illnesses like Cara's ulcers, could immediately put a family in dire straits, even if they have insurance.
Cara's ulcers were diagnosed as ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. In spite of her physical and financial circumstances, she was determined to keep her head up.
Putting in the Work
Cara kept working hard to clean homes for clients. Her effort didn't go unnoticed by her boss, Mary Jo Dean. Mary Jo hated seeing Cara struggle and wished there was a way to help her devoted employee.
She did the only thing she could by continuously sending Cara on house calls to help her earn more money. Even though Maid Brite offered competitive salaries for its employees, it wasn't enough to completely solve Cara's financial woes. However, Mary Jo soon had a special client who was willing to help Cara in a major way.
A New Client
One day, Mary Jo asked Cara to head to a job in Cleveland Heights. She was assigned to clean the house of a very important client of Maid Brite. Of course, she was ready to put forth her best effort, right from the start.
Cara arrived on time to the client's home, ready to clean. She was met by a woman named Madeline who brought her inside and showed her around. However, Cara soon realized this wasn't going to be the typical cleaning job that she was used to completing.
Madeline started by revealing a surprising fact. Although Cara had been hired, the house had already been cleaned. However, she still had plenty of other things for Cara to do. There was a big party scheduled for Madeline's boss later in the day, and she needed help getting everything ready.
Cara was a bit confused by the change in plans. Her job was to clean up people's messes, and that's what she assumed she had been hired to do. If she wasn't going to be cleaning, what exactly would Madeline have her doing?
Although Cara was puzzled, she agreed to stay and help. She was there to work. The first task that Madeline assigned to her was one in the kitchen. Cara would work alongside Manny Slomovits, an experienced chef who had been hired to prepare food for the party.
The chef was making a dinner menu featuring the finest cuisine. Cara thought Madeline wanted her to help Chef Manny wash dishes and keep his cooking areas clean. However, that wasn’t the case. Instead, it was Cara’s job to taste test each dish.
A Decadent Meal
Cara didn’t know what she could possibly as feedback for Chef Manny. After all, her meals were always pretty simple. In fact, her favorite dish to prepare for her kids was spaghetti. Chef Manny’s menu offered something really special for Cara, but she worried about her usefulness.
The dishes included Tristan lobster flown in from South Africa as well as white truffles accented with edible gold, which cost around $400 to $500 per piece. If the meal had been served at a restaurant, a customer would pay more than $4,000! And Cara was asked to taste it all for free?
Sticking to a Budget
Cara was enjoying the decadent meal, but she couldn’t help but wish that other people she knew could experience the meal with her. It was both fancy and delicious, and she knew she would never be able to experience anything like it again.
With a job cleaning houses and trying to take care of three kids on her own, she had to make sacrifices to make ends meet, and one of those sacrifices was skipping eating out. Instead, Cara made simple, delicious meals for her family at home to save money.
As Cara was finishing up her meal, the doorbell rang. Madeline politely asked her if she could answer it. As Cara opened the door, two men with a massage chair entered the house. Madeline informed her there would be a massage station at the party.
After the men set up the chair, they asked to do a quick warm-up to keep their hands from cramping while massaging guests during the party. They needed someone to sit down for a quick test massage, so they could warm up their hands. Madeline asked Cara to do it.
Of course, Cara thought the request was strange and too good to be true, but she agreed. She put in a lot of hours on her job, and she could definitely use some massage therapy. She sat in the chair and was treated to a gentle massage of her upper body.
Cara mentioned to Madeline that this had been a great day of "work" so far. She felt like it was her birthday instead of a shift on the job. Madeline made it clear that she was doing important work by helping out. It was all for her boss' party, after all.
Trying on Clothes
After the massage, Madeline had another task for Cara. They ventured to the master bedroom, where multiple outfits and accessories were placed across the bed. Madeline said she needed help clearing out the closets, and it was a task that Cara could certainly handle. However, the cleaning had a much different twist to it.
Rather than throw the clothes away, Madeline wanted Cara to try on each of the designer outfits and take whatever she liked. She normally spent most of her time in her Maid Brite uniform, so it was a strange proposition, but one she was definitely willing to carry out.
A Mysterious Box
Before Cara could try on her first outfit, the doorbell rang again. She went to open the door, and a mover was there with a large box. He brought the mysterious box into the living room and went back outside to grab another one. Madeline asked if Cara could unload the box while she took care of something else.
Cara began opening the box, ready to finally do a little manual labor after her pretty relaxing day. However, when she reached into the box and began taking things out, she was dumbfounded.
As she went through the contents of the box, Cara recognized that the items inside were her own belongings! She asked the mover how he had gotten her things and why they had been sent here, but she didn't get any clear answers. All the mover knew was that he was told to deliver the boxes to the house's owner, a Ms. Simmons.
The mover continued bringing in Cara's belongings. As she looked through photographs and other belongings, she was completely confused. She didn't own this house, so why would her things be delivered here? Who was this Ms. Simmons? A relative?
Some Kind of Mix-Up
Madeline confirmed that the mover’s instructions were correct. Her boss' name was Ms. Simmons. This confirmation made things even more confusing for Cara. It appeared to be some kind of mix-up, and she needed to get to the bottom of it.
Madeline and the mover both confirmed the house and the contents of the boxes belonged to Ms. Simmons, but Cara asserted that it wasn't her house. The mover asked Cara to step outside with him for a moment. He said he had something in his truck that might explain everything to her.
A Special Surprise
Both Cara and Madeline followed the mover outside to his truck. As she tried to wrap her mind around the strange events of the day, she was in for yet another surprise. Cara's three kids and her sister, Glo, hopped out of the back of the truck to surprise her!
As her family ran to her, Cara got emotional seeing them, especially her kids. She told them all about her weird but great workday. She still didn't understand exactly what was going on. Her family and her belongings were there, but why?
A Necessary Explanation
The mover then removed his cap and revealed his true identity. He was really Greg Benson, an actor and the host of the web series Prank It Forward (stylized Prank It FWD). Cara's facial expression clearly showed she had no idea what he was talking about.
As part of the series, Cara's entire day had secretly been filmed for an episode of the online show. Not only had her family been watching the entire day unfold, but Cara's boss, Mary Jo, had also been watching from behind the scenes. As far as pranks go, it was a nice one, but for what reason?
Prank It Forward
Prank It FWD was a series started by Break.com to trick people using ordinary pranks. The show evolved over time to become a series based on honoring people like Cara for their good deeds. The "pranks" were always fun but positive and ended with some pretty big surprises for guests.
Greg explained to Cara that it was their goal to do good deeds for people who could use a little happiness in their day. In Cara’s case, she certainly needed and deserved a wonderful day off, but she also deserved more.
A Note from the Boss
Mary Jo knew firsthand just how dedicated Cara was to her job at Maid Brite. However, even with bonuses, raises and flexible hours, Cara and some of the other maids were struggling. Mary Jo decided to try to do something about it.
She nominated some of her hardest working house cleaners for a possible feature on Prank It FWD. Out of all the employee stories she submitted to the show, producers chose to surprise Cara. Working with Cara's kids and Glo, they pulled off an epic positive prank.
A Day of Pampering
As Greg finally cleared everything up, Cara realized the entire day had been set up to spoil her a little bit. Madeline was actually an actress hired by the show to help carry out the prank.
Cara was shocked but also thankful that her family and Mary Jo helped put this together for her. She felt a lot more relaxed and happy, especially with the stress of bills on her shoulders. However, Prank It FWD had one more big surprise in store for them all.
A New Home
Remember all Cara’s belongings inside the house? Greg cleared that up as well. It was true that Ms. Simmons was the owner of the house. He happily revealed the biggest surprise of all. The house was officially in Cara's name!
Cara and her three kids were free to move in as soon as they could. The house had a master bedroom and a bedroom for each of the kids, who had been bunking together for quite some time. The family cried tears of joy upon hearing the news.
It was revealed that Prank It FWD had partnered with Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland to pull off this massive shocker for the Simmons family. NHS knew they needed to find a house that would adequately accommodate the family and keep them in Cleveland Heights.
The organization found a home in foreclosure in the area, so Cara's kids could stay in the same school with their friends. Additionally, the house and plot the property was on belonged to Cara as a part of a land trust.
Developing a Land Trust
In Cara's case, the land trust is pretty simple. Ocwen Financial Corporation, a residential and commercial mortgage loan services provider, donated the home to NHS, who technically owns the property. NHS will lease the land to Cara for 99 years, and it's renewable. That means she can pass the deed on to her kids and their kids.
If she decides to move, NHS will lease the home to other individuals with low to moderate incomes. Once NHS took care of the legalities, Prank It FWD stepped in to help spruce up the house for the Simmons family.
Dreams of a Home
Growing up, Cara had a loving home with her parents until they divorced when she was a young girl. Then she moved, and her dreams of a happy home were dashed.
She had wanted a home for her kids for a long time. "I have never owned a home. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever be able to own a home," she confessed to Prank It FWD. "It was the same chance as walking on the moon. That’s how I felt about it."
A Big Celebration
Cara also learned that the party she had been "working on" all day was really for her! She couldn't believe the events of the day. She had been pampered and received a home in her name, and then there was a party to celebrate her.
Of course, she was emotional about everything, especially now that she had a home to call her own. As everyone raised a champagne toast to her, Greg revealed that the surprises weren't actually over. He had something else in store for the mom and a special guest.
A Much-Needed Vacay
In spite of her medical issues, Cara hadn't taken time off work since she had gone on maternity leave six years before. As anyone taking care of a newborn will tell you, maternity leave certainly doesn’t count as a vacation. Prank It FWD decided to change that.
Greg announced that Cara would finally be able to take a nice, long vacation to relax and refresh. The show gave her and her sister, Glo, a paid vacation to Mexico! Cara was speechless. Once her story aired on the internet, she reached a level of fame she couldn’t have imagined.
Next Stop: Hollywood
After Cara's story went viral online, many news outlets wanted to speak with her about her story and experience on Prank It FWD. Queen Latifah heard about the positive prank and knew she had to talk to Cara in person. The host and actress invited Cara and her boss, Mary Jo, to appear on her talk show.
It was a huge deal for Cara and Mary Jo to head to Hollywood. They were excited just to visit Tinseltown, and getting to be on TV was an unbelievably huge plus.
Another Big Gift
While on the show, Cara shared her financial struggles with Queen Latifah and mentioned how grateful she was to Mary Jo for nominating her for the show. In turn, Mary Jo was grateful to have someone like Cara on her team.
Queen Latifah was moved by Cara's story and Mary Jo's appreciation for her employee — so moved, in fact, that she decided Mary Jo deserved a little reward as well. For her own kind act toward Cara, Mary Jo was surprised with her own trip to Mexico.
Getting Things in Order
Once Cara returned home to her new reality, she worked closely with NHS to learn how to get her finances in order. NHS wanted Cara to be equipped to handle her new home as well as her other bills.
In order to do that, she worked side-by-side with the organization's executive director, Lou Tisler, to learn the ups and downs of home ownership. "I’m kind of taking my time and making sure I understand everything," Cara said in a follow-up interview with the show.
A New Outlook
Even though NHS has a land trust agreement with Cara, Tisler wanted to ensure that the home wouldn’t cause Cara any financial hardship. "We want to make sure she can actually afford it going forward," the executive director revealed. "To know in Cleveland Heights, with the tax base, what it means to own a home with taxes and maintenance. We’re really working with her on a deep level."
Cara is just grateful for the opportunity to create a better life for herself and her three kids. The Simmons family moved into their new home right before the Christmas holiday that year.