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Frozen Sandlot returns for holiday ice skating

Bridges Outreach caps off positive year with annual event

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Ice Skating— Bridges Outreach will once again manage the Frozen Sandlot, which returns Friday, Nov. 26 for holiday skating. Bridges is celebrating a good 2021 in which the program bounced back from COVID and once again began mentoring students in local schools and around the community.

Thanksgiving is here and with it comes turkey, mashed potatoes and ice skating to exercise away the holiday carbs.

The Frozen Sandlot, 400 S. Union St. inside the Kokomo Municipal Stadium, returns Friday, Nov. 26 for a season of ice skating and winter fun. The skating rink opens at 11 a.m. and will run until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday with Sunday hours of 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $7 or $5 for non-skaters and those who bring their own skates.

Bridges Outreach, 208 Main St., is once again managing the rink. The partnership with the city began when CEO Travis Tafflinger wanted to come up with a temporary business to employ kids in the Bridges program. He approached former Kokomo mayor Greg Goodnight about a possible put-put course. A few months later Goodnight came back with an alternative idea: an ice skating rink. He asked Taflinger if Bridges would want to manage it.

Taflinger said absolutely.

“It fits our mission well because it gives kids something positive to do in the winter when there is not a ton to do,” he said. “It’s family friendly. We partner with a lot school groups and church groups we are connected with. We have 31 employees this year—so we get to employ a lot of old Bridges students and college age kids. It’s also a good fundraiser for us. It helps us do our programs that don’t make money. It’s a huge blessing for us to be able to do this.”

The Frozen Sandlot will run until Jan. 9, 2022 with weekend hours until Dec. 17. From that point on the rink is open daily (closed Christmas day) until January 4.

Families and groups may also rent the rink or heated suites within the Municipal Stadium for events or birthday parties. Rates and available times can be found at frozensandlot.com.

“A lot of kids with winter birthdays will have a birthday party there,” said Taflinger. “It offers an alternative to Chuck E. Cheese or Gravity [Trampoline Park].”

A waiver form is needed in order to skate and can also be found on the website.

For many organizations, 2021 was a year of bouncing back from COVID and it was no different for Bridges Outreach. While the pandemic shut things down and slowed momentum, Bridges used the time to reevaluate their progress and rebuild the program.

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“We had an opportunity to simplify some things and in some ways get back to our roots almost—bridging people to Christ and making disciples,” Taflinger said.

One of the successes Bridges had this year was the relaunch of their in-school mentoring program. They had a goal of finding 50 student mentors in the Kokomo community for the 2021-22 school year. They now have 51 as schools approach semester breaks.

A new project that began this year was restoring a house on North Courtland that was set to be demolished.

“It was a really cool house but it was really old,” he said. “In June we started rehabbing it.”

As Bridges works on making the house livable again they are also hosting an eight hour class for seven HUD approved families about buying a first home. The program includes topics such as budgeting, insurance, inspections and mortgages.

Taflinger hopes when the house is completed that it can be sold to someone affiliated with Bridges like a staff member, a former student or someone who took the class.

“We are going to sell it for what we have in it,” he said. “It will be under market value so they have some equity as soon as they buy.”

Taflinger hopes there will be more houses in the future but realizes if it only becomes an occasional project that one or two houses will still help people in the Kokomo community.

“We really try to listen to God and be led by the spirit of what he wants,” Taflinger said. “We are always open to doing new things. Mentoring, I think, is going to continue to grow. Our staple programs are about relationships and longevity. We will continue to connect young people to Christ and continue to build in and love our community.”

For more information about the Frozen Sandlot visit frozensandlot.com. More information about Bridges Outreach can be found at bridgesoutreach.com.