JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – For more than 40 years the Optimist Ice Arena in Jackson has lived by the slogan ‘friend of youth’. It’s a mission the non-profit says is about serving the community.

“It’s in my heart that I want to see this place succeed and keep going,” said Optimist Ice Arena Manager, Don Trapp.

Trapp took over as manager in 1984 just before the rink was set to close for good. Now decades later he’s still getting up early and staying late every day to make sure this place stays open.

“It’s taking care of our youth, our kids, providing them a place they can have fun. It’s interesting because when the kids first come in they are six or seven years old, they are shy and within six months they are your best friends,” said Trapp.

When the pandemic hit they were forced to close for months on end, but thanks to the community’s support and multiple fundraisers they are back up and running.

“Seeing that support of us. It must mean we do a good job because they like it and want to keep the place here and they’ve come together and helped donate money. It’s just been great.”

As the rink is lit up for the holidays, Don and his wife are working to do what they know best by giving back. They’re preparing to hand out backpacks and other gifts to kids in need in a few weeks with another surprise coming. It’s a tradition that like this building Don hopes to carry on for generations to come.

“I look back at what we’ve had when we first started and now where we are at right now it’s just amazing that we were able to continue doing that. I mean it’s great for the community. I think Jackson really benefits from it.”

Don doesn’t know what the future holds, but like these words written on the wall, he knows this place will always be home.

“It’s a labor of love I guess. If not, I wouldn’t be here.”