By Frances Wang

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Out of months of darkness following the Surfside building collapse comes a day of much needed light.

“Today, I had something inside of me that told me OK, today is really a celebration day,” said Adriana LaFont.

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Adriana’s ex-husband Manny Lafont, 54, was one of the 98 people killed in the Champlain Towers condo collapse. Community members have rallied around her and her children, including efforts to dedicate the baseball fields at North Shore Park to Lafont.

Manny was a beloved baseball coach. His 10-year-old son Santi was one of his players.

“I think of happy memories,” said Santi, who still plays on that field. “I tell my friends my dad taught me this and this.”

Manny and his son Santi. (Courtesy of the LaFont Family)

At Wednesday’s city of Miami Beach commission meeting, all voted unanimously to move forward with the dedication.

Commissioner Michael Gongora sponsored the efforts.

“Anyone with a heart couldn’t vote against this,” said Gongora.

The last time Santi and his 13-year-old sister Mia spoke publicly about the field, both were visibly emotional, moving many in the chamber to tears.

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“I thought that nobody would know who my dad was and I felt his loss meant nothing to nobody and that was part of my grieving,” explained Mia. “Now, knowing that they are honoring him, taking time out of their day to do a whole ceremony. That just means people do care.”

Manny and his daughter Mia. (Courtesy of the LaFont Family)

For the LaFont family, it’s their field of memories. In some ways, it fills a void.

“We couldn’t bury Manny here in Miami because his hometown is Houston, Texas,” said Adriana. “With the park, with the field, we feel we have a place that belongs to him.”

“Hopefully when I grow up, my kids will play there,” added Santi.

The LaFonts said if Manny were here, he would be speechless and likely crying.

“He was very emotional,” laughed Mia.

Those who didn’t know Manny soon will if they ever step on the field.

“There’s going to be something that reminds people without us having to say,” said Mia. “Thank you to everybody who signed the petition, made this noticeable. This wouldn’t have happened without you. Thank you.”

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A plaque has been ordered with Manny’s name and a statement sharing his story. It will be placed on the batting cages in a dedication ceremony scheduled for a later time.

Frances Wang