Construction work is underway to transform a Cape Breton ball diamond into a field of dreams for people of all abilities.
It's a big step for the Hawks Dream Field community project that has already raised more than a million dollars with help from all levels of government.
"Everybody here in Cape Breton will be able to utilize this field because it's going to be 100 per cent accessible," said Lisa McNeil-Campbell of the Hawks Dream Field Society.
"This project went really far, really fast, and the community is incredibly supportive, so we're very grateful."
Plans for the project include an accessible splash pad, walking track and bocce court while the ball field will feature ground-level bases and enclosed dugouts to benefit wheelchair users.
The society helped raise more than $120,000 last year.
Inspired by community volunteer
McNeil-Campbell says another $1.5 million is needed to complete the project that was inspired by her late father.
Walter McNeil was community volunteer and former Sydney steel plant worker who died in 2019. His daughter says he battled COPD and was a wheelchair user later in life.
"His mantra was always that everybody should get to play. It doesn't matter if you're the best team person on the team or the worst person, it's all about the playing and the teamwork.
A new building at the Dominion ball field is expected to house an accessible canteen and change tables for both children and adults, while seating will be plentiful around the walking track.
There are also plans for covered grandstands.
Toni McNeil teared up last week when first saw people working at the field inspired by her late husband.
"I cried all the way up the sidewalk to get pictures of the tractors doing the work, so we're very, very excited to see it all started," McNeil said.
"My husband … at the end of it he couldn't go see his grandson play hockey because the rinks are not accessible."
Sheldon Saccary, project co-chair, said the work is meaningful as his own daughter Angela, 34, has Down syndrome.
Mascot a symbol of inclusion
"This project is a bit touching for me," he said. I remember when she was practising for bocce ball we'd have to go drive to Sydney and we practiced on a field that was not really a bocce court."
Saccary said the field's mascot will be Hecky the Hawk, who will feature one wing shorter than the other. Organizers of the Hawks Dreams Field say the bird was named after local resident and former baseball player Hector (Hec) Andrews.
According to project organizers, the field is expected to open in 2023.
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