NEW BEDFORD - The Team Noah Foundation held an official groundbreaking ceremony for Noah's Place Playground, a playground dedicated and accessible to children with physical disabilities. The playground will be located at Marine Park on Pope's Island and was made possible through fundraising and from numerous donations.

The foundation is led by the parents of the late Noah Fernandes, who passed away at the age of 14 last year from his battle with M.E.L.A.S.- a progressive and degenerative mitochondrial disease. One of its many missions, the Noah Foundation funds research for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMFD) with the ultimate goal of finding a cure. The foundation also aims to ensure that no child goes without the medical equipment they need by helping to fill the void where insurance and government funds cannot.

Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke alongside multiple elected officials and members of the Noah Foundation and spoke fondly of the collaborative effort between city departments, sponsors, and donors to get the project moving. Following the mayor, the father of Noah Fernandes, Victor Fernandes, stepped to the podium to express his appreciation of the work put in by multiple people and organizations, but first paid tribute to his son.

“First of all I want to thank my little boy upstairs for making this a reality,” Fernandes said. “Being here today is a very special moment for me, for so many of you, and of course for my wife. She was the one who had this great idea.”

The playground is planned to be built specially built to accommodate the needs of multiple disabilities. Swings that allow for wheelchairs to be fastened to them and merry-go-rounds designed for family to stand on to assist their child if needed are only some of the features the park will have.

“For children with all kinds of disabilities from Autism to Muscular Dystrophy, whatever, they're going to be able to come along with their peers and play alongside them and enjoy a beautiful space like this right by the water,” said Noah's mother Christine Fernandes. “I mean what more can we ask for? It's beautiful.”

The City of New Bedford was approached by the Team Noah Foundation in 2015 about the possibility of the playground. The playground will also be one of the largest fully accessible play spaces in Massachusetts at the completion of construction.

“To so many families out there, special needs families, a place where they can all gather to come and have a good time and be a part of society,” Victor Fernandes said. “Unfortunately today a lot of these families, they're forgotten, they have no place to go,” he said.

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