Creating, Laughter, Fun & Life-Long Memories

In the sleepy little town of Manton, Michigan, Scott Chittle, watched his two elementary-aged girls settle in for the winter. In-person school was on-again, off-again. Even when it was full time, kids had to sit in assigned seats in class and at lunch, careful not to interact. The local elementary basketball season was cancelled. So, the daughters mainly sat and watched a lot of TV for much of the winter, careful to be socially isolated from their friends.

So, one night, Mr. Chittle, got an idea. He ordered a plastic lining and enough wood to build a 55 x 55 skating rink in his sideyard. Never mind that he didn’t know what he was doing or that his kids didn’t even skate. As he will tell you, he didn’t just do it for his kids. He did it for all the kids in the town who were watching their phones and playing video games all day.

Word spreads in a small town. The local government ordered the fire department to deliver 24,000 gallons of water to the Chittle house. Within 48 hours, the water turned to ice. At first, no one came. But then Mr. Chittle began knocking on doors. Now, it seems every kid in the town shows up on his side lawn every day after school. Neighbors donated money for skates and hot chocolate and hot dogs. The lumber yard donated wood for the daily fire. Mr. Chittle even put up some make-shift lights on poles so kids can skate into the moonlight. And, just like that, one man changed the course of the town’s pandemic winter. In an outdoor setting, kids were being kids again. Fun could be heard again.

“This is amazing. It’s very, very awesome for our community,” said Becky DeYoung, a neighborhood mother of two young boys. “They need this. They need to be outside. They need to be active. But No. 1, I think it’s just the socializing, being able to be social with one another again and giving them a sense of community.” One day a stranger walked by and introduced himself to Mr. Chittle. “I gotta say, you got the coolest yard in the county, and it just melts my heart when I walk by here, because my dad did the same thing when I was a kid.” And with tears in his eyes, he said, “Man, just the memories.”

Joe’s Perspective: This is my childhood 40 years ago. On the bus ride home from school each day, we would vote on the sport we were going to play that day and at whose house we would play. We played all kinds of sports – football, basketball, baseball, kickball, tennis, hockey. We loved it. It was fun, competitive and free. We made our own rules and settled our own disputes. In the winter time, it was usually hockey. This is how I grew up. Although no one made us an ice rink, we would create one on the local pond. Sure, it was bumpy and we had to used hats as hockey goals, but we played for hours – every day.

And, here’s the thing, I tell my kids today. It was fun! We laughed, told stupid jokes and pulled pranks on each other. We did not need an adult to organize our activities. No one told us what game to play that day. No TV, video games, social media or hours sitting around. Our mean parents wouldn’t allow it anyway – they literally pushed us out the door and told us to find something to do. I didn’t know a pudgy kid because we were always active. Although, I can’t prove it, I would be willing to bet that my generation had a lot more fun than your generation. So, my wish is that today, you will find the same childhood joy that my generation found every day.

Your Turn: What do you think of the this story and how much unorganized sports do you get to play as a kid?

Comments 35

  1. It seems like a fun community that so many people participated and they even got help from the fire department. My family played a lot of simple games indoors and outdoors.

  2. I thought it was cool that he built the ice rink for the community and not charging for it. I used to play soccer and sports unorganized all the time.

  3. I wish this sort of thing happened when I was a kid, kids played soccer and stuff together generally, but for the most part nothing outside of rev and little league teams. this is pretty cool

  4. I love this story, I didnt play a lot of unorganized sports when I was young. I was always in Ymca basketball, volleyball, and softball.

  5. I loved it and I didn’t really play a whole lot of sports going up at least around my neighborhood but i mean aside from that i played baseball when i was maybe 4/5 then wanted to do soccer at 9/10 and now i play volleyball which i started doing when i was 12

  6. I loved this story. As a kid, I used to play unorganized sports all the time, it was what made me passionate about the sports I play now.

  7. I liked the story , as kid I loved playing unorganized sports because obviously it was fun and enjoyable and it’s kind of like finding out what sport I could be good in.

  8. I loved it so much!! I always use to play unorganized sports and I loved it growing up so I think unorganized sports are awesome!

  9. i thought it was pretty cool that he made something for everyone to enjoy and have fun with. when i was younger i played unorganized sports but not a whole lot

  10. i really liked the story and i think it was an amazing and fun idea. i didnt really play specific sports when i was younger but i played outside most of the time.

  11. I wish they did this for me as a kid growing up I didn’t really play a lot of unorganized sports, but loved how they could have fun with there community.

  12. I think it was a really cool thing to do for their community. When I was younger I did play some unorganized sports and I was always outside when I was younger with a couple of my friends.

  13. I thought that the story was pretty good, I didn’t play many sports as a kid just really hanged with the kids on the block and rode bikes with them.

  14. I think this story is great! It’s a great way to get up and be active but also have fun. When I was younger I played unorganized sports here and there with family and friends. I mainly played kickball when I was younger.

  15. I thought the story was cool, it’s a great way for them to still have fun but still stay active. When I was younger i played lots of unorganized sports in elementary and I had a lot of fun with it.

  16. I like the story and the intentions behind his thinking of bringing back the old times to the kids in his hometown. Growing up I did play some unorganized games and they were always fun.

  17. I loved the story and thought the idea of the ice rink benefited the kids immensely. Getting that fun playing time with your neighbors and other kids is one of the essential things of being a kid. So it’s smart to not waste that precious time sitting in your room not doing anything.

  18. I thought this story was really cool because they got to act like kids for the first time in a while. When I was little my family and all of our cousins lived in the same town and so we would play games with each other all day and in the summer our cousins hosted something called home camp that you played games at all day.

  19. This story is so cool! I played a lot of back yard/front yard sports with my siblings and the kids from around the block would jump in with us.

  20. That’s awesome, I’ve been saying for the longest time Ellensburg needs something to do here. If Ellensburg had something to keep kids active (like an ice rink) I honestly think this town would be 10 times better.

    I played unorganized sports almost every recess in elementary. However around 4th and 5th grade I left that group of friends, so I stopped playing those active kind of games. I don’t regret it though because my friends are awesome, even if there not as “sporty” as my old friends.

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