This Man’s Homemade Ice Rink Brought Manton, Michigan Together During a Dark Winter

When the pandemic forced Manton, Michigan to shut down, resident Scott Chittle decided that the community needed a safe place to come together, and something to spark some joy during the dreary winter months.

Kids skate on a homemade ice rink made by Scott Chittle at his home in MantonRyan Garza/USA TODAY NETWORK
The ice rink brightened up one of the darkest winters in memory.

On Christmas Eve 2020, fire trucks rushed to the Chittle home in the sleepy little town of Manton, Michigan. But it wasn’t because of a Christmas nightmare. Far from it.

Winters can be long and tough this far north. Add the COVID-19 pandemic, and Scott Chittle knew something had to be done to bring some cheer to the 1,555 people who call Manton home.

Chittle, 51, lives in a big yellow house with his mother and two children. When he was three, his father built an ice-skating rink in their backyard, where Chittle and his buddies would spend endless hours over the coming years playing hockey. That, thought Chittle, is what the children in this community need.

One problem: Chittle had no clue how to build an ice rink. Luckily, there’s YouTube. Soon after watching a tutorial, he was smoothing out a 3,000-square-foot section of his yard, ordering a massive tarp large enough to cover it, and buying lumber to create the walls. Now he needed the ice. That’s where those fire trucks came in. It took 12 of them to spray enough water to fill the plot. Then he waited for Mother Nature to do the rest.

An ice rink that gave back to the community

It wasn’t long before Chittle’s backyard became a Manton hot spot. The smell of grilled hot dogs and burning firewood filled the air. Lights strung over the ice added sparkle. And the laughter and shrieks of children playing hockey or performing figure eights made their parents smile.

But the kindness didn’t stop with Chittle. When word got out that he’d spent $1,400 out of his own pocket to build his rink of dreams, neighbors, strangers, and businesses pitched in $3,000 to cover the costs and more.

For Chittle, the ice rink was always about more than kids blowing off some steam. It was about surviving even the darkest times. “I want to show the rest of the world,” says Chittle, “what a little effort, the best intentions, and community can do, not only for others but for the souls of all.”

Next, learn how this one man made his hotel our Nicest Place in America 2021.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest