Charlie's Playground at Saddlewood Elementary
In Sept 2018, 5 year old, Charlie Fernandez, was diagnosed with Stage IV, neuroblastoma. While still tackling relapsed cancer, in January 2020, she became blind due to a tumor on her optic nerve. Unfortunately, she never regained sight after multiple cancer treatments to shrink tumors and reduce pressure on her optic nerve. In-between treatments, she attended school at Saddlewood Elementary in the South Colonie School District. Her teacher, classmates, and the entire South Colonie School District supported (and still do) and helped Charlie through her battle.
When she became blind, she never once complained and adapted very well to her new way of navigating life. Her teacher, Mrs. Sarah Norton along with her two dogs, George and Henry, became her eyes at school. Mrs. Norton trained her own puppies to help Charlie navigate down the school hallways and to greet her at the bus. George and Henry became Charlie’s best friends. Even though Charlie no longer had her eyesight, she never let it interfere with her goals and abilities. She came up with solutions to everyday problems. She would scoot around the floor to get from point a and b. Once she felt comfortable, she started using her hands to feel her way around. Her favorite thing to do was play at the playground. With the support of her teacher, family, and/or friends, she would climb up stairs and slide down the slide and even swing on the swings even though she could not see. The playground allowed her to be a kid and play with her friends. Her photographic memory helped her after she lost her sight.
Unfortunately, on April 19, 2021, Charlie lost her battle with cancer. She is now our forever 7 year old angel. In her short time on earth, she made an impact near and far and across the globe.
To honor Charlie, we are working with a very generous foundation, Where Angels Play, to raise funds and build an all abilities playground, with special emphasis for the visually impaired, at Saddlewood Elementary School in Colonie at Charlie’s school. School was one of her most favorite places to be! Our goal is to raise $100,000.00 and once that is accomplished, the Where Angels Play Foundation will support the rest of the funds and build this playground. The goal is to build the playground in Spring 2023.
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Mary Kate Herbert
Where Angels Play Foundation
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