Maple Ridge kicks off rec re-do with first soccer field

Sod turning on Karina LeBlanc Field, Monday

She said it herself, the new all-weather sports field at Merkley Park is the stuff you only dream of.

“This field is my field of dreams,” Karina LeBlanc said Monday during the sod-turning for the new all-weather field named in her honour and to be completed this fall.

“This is incredible for me. I was this young girl who moved to Canada. My parents took a chance, a leap of faith and brought us to this country for opportunity and help.”

Leblanc said when she was young, she didn’t fit in and was bullied, then she developed a dream.

“I decided to have this crazy, big dream, that I wanted to be an Olympian.”

Sport changed her life.

“You gave me a ball and my life changed. I had confidence. I had belief. I wanted to do all these big things.”

She kept progressing in soccer, but it didn’t go too well when she tried to make her first B.C. team. She was cut.

She went back to the field in Merkley Park and kept practising, adding 15 minutes to her training day, then made a team that was above her age group the next time she tried out.

“My dreams were taken from me and this field made my dreams happen.”

LeBlanc went on to make the national women’s soccer team, winning a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.

The team wanted to win a medal to inspire others, LeBlanc she added.

“You guys made me” she told the crowd of old friends, coaches, teachers and youth at the sod turning.

“It’s pretty cool to walk up and see your name,” on a field.

“You have to dream that crazy big dream, she told the crowd, which included several minor soccer girls players.

Everyone has some greatness in them, she added.

People should believe in themselves, she said.

“Because I was that little girl. And now I have a field named after me, and it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Henry Bulger taught social studies to LeBlanc at Maple Ridge secondary.

“She was fantastic. She worked very hard.”

Her family gave her great support, he added.

Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something if you know you can, added Bugler, who came from an immigrant family.

When he was young, he desperately wanted to become a teacher – and he did.

“From the time I was eight, I wanted to be a teacher.”

Diane Brooks said she first invited LeBlanc to track and field practice when LeBlanc was tagging along with her sister.

“The little girl that wouldn’t say boo,” Brooks recalled.

Leblanc’s mom, Winsome, who taught in Maple Ridge schools for 20 years, said parents should always support their kids, no matter what they do.

“Parents, you cannot support your kids enough.”

But that support has to be for what the child wants, not what the parent wants, she added.

“Sport is nothing, if not preventive in many ways,” said school board chair Mike Murray.

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district is partnering with the City of Maple Ridge in developing the $2-million field.

Next on the list for converting to an all-weather field is the grass field at Golden Ears elementary.

That’s expected to be done this fall followed next year by two more artificial fields at Thomas Haney secondary, providing voters approve.


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