Marc Kohn wanted to turn his grief over the death of his stepdaughter into something that would honor her memory and serve the community.
So he built an ice rink in his backyard.
"She was a huge hockey fan,” Kohn said. “She just loved it."
Since the rink opened three weeks ago at his Poolesville, Md. home, it has been filled with neighborhood children, skating with smiles on their faces while their appreciative parents look on as the community enjoys its new gathering spot.
"This was cool because it was less than five minutes from my house and I've been coming here every single day," said 11-year-old Jonah Valmonte.
Kohn’s stepdaughter Melanie Osborne died in July at age 35 from a respiratory disease.
Soon after he began planning and building “Mel’s Rink,” which he estimates took him 300 to 400 hours to complete at a cost of about $40,000. He created a Facebook page to publicize the rink, which uses synthetic ice, and neighbors began flocking to his “Rink of Dreams.”
"It was good for me building it and I thought I was a cathartic thing," said the 51-year-old Kohn.
Local parents said they are happy to have a rink nearby, others are about 40 minutes away, and hope their kids take a lesson from Kohn’s generosity in the face of tragedy.
"You don't see this anymore, you don't see someone selflessly say, 'I want to do this for the community, for these reasons,'" said Dan Levine, whose son uses the rink.
But now this feel good tale is facing a potentially unhappy plot twist.
The rink violates local zoning laws that prohibit a facility used by the public from being built on the land, which is designated as an agriculture reserve, even though the rink is in Kohn’s backyard.
He plans to meet with county officials on Monday to try and work something out.
"We have to come together and figure out what to do and hopefully sustain it," he said.