NEW BEDFORD - After nearly a two year effort, the memory of an area teenager will forever rest at Marine Park on Pope's Island.

Elected officials joined the Team Noah Foundation at Pope's Island on Monday morning to officially open Noah's Place Playground, a playground dedicated and accessible to children with physical disabilities.

The playground is in memory of the late Noah Fernandes, who passed away in March of 2016 after a 10 year battle with M.E.L.A.S. - a progressive and degenerative mitochondrial disease. It features handicap accessible slides, play areas, and swings that allow for wheelchairs to be fastened to them, as well as multiple ramps leading to different areas of the park.

Noah's parents, Victor and Christine Fernandes, spoke alongside Mayor Jon Mitchell and other elected officials before the ribbon cutting. They spoke about the collective effort that came from three different avenues to complete the project. Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke fondly of the collaborative effort between city departments, sponsors, and donors to get the project moving.

"This is truly a team effort though. In my mind it's a great example of how great things can happen when people come together for an important cause," Mayor Mitchell said. “When I say important, there is opportunity behind us for children. For children to have fun, to do things that they might not have believed they can do. It also allows for opportunities for children to connect with their families and their caregivers.”

Following the mayor, the father of Noah Fernandes, Victor Fernandes, stepped to the podium to express his appreciation of the work put in by the city and contractors, who finished constructing the largest playground of its kind in all of Massachusetts.

“This playground is for everybody,” said Victor. “Obviously it's more to get families together, to get the people together and learn from each other. That's our ultimate goal is for all families to learn from each other and have a great time being part of society. That's our main goal.”

The ribbon cutting was then followed by the unveiling of a statue of Noah Fernandes, which can be seen right at the playgrounds entrance. His mother, Christine Fernandes, came to tears when she saw the statue for the first time.

Tim Dunn/TSM.
Tim Dunn/TSM.

“I'm just kind of speechless. This has been a culmination of so much hard work, so much hard work and dedication, and because of one little boy, my little boy and his life,” Christine said. “Just to see a community united, that came together in so many ways to give us a pat on the back and funding it, and just [overall] support. There's no words, there are no words.”

The playground was completed just eight weeks following the September groundbreaking ceremony.


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