BILLINGS — For the last eight years, Billings has watched Landon’s Legacy grow from an idea into a force.
It's perhaps the most recognizable nonprofit in the community, thanks to thousands of window decals on cars all across town. But many have likely wondered what the group was ultimately building toward. The answer came Wednesday, at the groundbreaking of Billings’ first-ever, all-inclusive Miracle Field.
“It was surreal last night - it finally hit me that we’re actually doing this," said Landon's Legacy President Marcie Smith. "We’re not just talking about it and asking people to help us. It’s actually happening.”
Smith founded Landon’s Legacy the day she wrote her son Landon's obituary - June 6, 2013. It was his dream to be a baseball player, but life never gave him that chance. The Smiths vowed they wouldn’t let that happen to anyone else in this community.
“My ‘why’ has changed," Smith told the crowd at Wednesday's ceremony. "Landon knows this is his, but now my ‘why’ is for all the kids in the future and the present that finally get to play and have fun and be normal and be happy.”
The groundbreaking marks Phase 1 of the project that will be done in connection with infrastructure improvements to Poly Vista Park. Bauer Construction will handle work done by the Landon's Legacy Foundation. Smith hopes to have the field surface down and ready for all to use by spring 2022.
It will be just the second Miracle Field in the state - the other is in Kalispell - so it will serve a huge special needs population, one the Billings parks system has become more in tune with recent upgrades in other parks around the city.
“I would like to think that we have jump-started the city on doing inclusive playgrounds, because there was nothing - absolutely nothing - here," Smith said. "And now I’m hearing the word inclusive more, I’m seeing things getting done.”
Take one look around Wednesday's groundbreaking - one of the most heavily attended in Billings history - and you could see what this project means to all.
“You have forged a path for your son’s legacy to bring joy, space, movement, and play to countless children, adults and families who have not had a river of their own," said Billings City Council member Penny Ronning.
"This journey has been a roller coaster of emotions - joy, sadness, madness," Smith said. "But I’ve learned about people and how amazing they are, and how much they give and how much they care. I had no idea how much people cared about each other.”