NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — On Popes Island in New Bedford, a playground accessible to all children, including kids facing bodily challenges or physical disabilities, has finally opened after being in the works since 2015.
Just about eight weeks ago, ground was broken on “Noah’s Place,” the playground spearheaded by the Team Noah Foundation, started by Victor and Christine Fernandes in honor of their son, Noah. He’d been diagnosed in 2006 with MELAS, a package of mitochondrial diseases affecting bodily systems, including the brain and muscles.
The diagnosis meant the final years of his life were spent in a wheelchair. Noah died at 14 years old.
Noah’s former schoolmates received the honor of being first to play on the playground. To see kids able to play on the structure made Monday an emotional day for Noah’s father and mother.
“Noah’s life was cut much too short,” Christine said. “But he has inspired a whole community to do great things that will touch lives for many lifetimes to come. No doubt Noah is among us today to celebrate the completion of this great project.”
“Hopefully there will be a lot of happy moments here for families, where you can all connect,” Victor added.
Also celebrating the opening was John Kelly, the president of Meeting Street, which operates the Schwartz Center. Meeting Street, which has locations serving Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, helps educate children who may have developmental delays or disabilities.
“It is a playground for all children,” Kelly said. “It is a playground that will bring smiles and laughter and joy. It is a playground where all children can play together and do things. Unless you have been involved in an inclusive playground, you don’t realize how special that really is. There are very few playgrounds like that in our area, no other one in Southeastern Massachusetts.”