South Colonie to partner with national foundation to build fully accessible playground at Saddlewood in 2023

Playground to be developed in honor of former Saddlewood Elementary student Charlie Fernandez who lost her battle with cancer in 2021; Playground to feature areas for children with visual impairments

Hannaford presents $20,000 check to support Charlie's Playground
Hannaford presents $20,000 check to support Charlie’s Playground during a press conference at Saddlewood Elementary on Wednesday, June 1.

The South Colonie Central School District announced today plans for the construction of an additional playground on the Saddlewood Elementary campus. The project, called Charlie’s Playground, will be built in honor of former Saddlewood student Charlie Fernandez. Charlie was a first-grade student at Saddlewood Elementary who sadly lost her courageous battle with neuroblastoma in April of 2021.

Through the collaboration with the Fernandez family, national foundation Where Angels Play and other area organizations like SEFCU, Hannaford, and the Community Foundation of the Greater Capital Region, a new all-ability playground will be built on the grounds of South Colonie’s Saddlewood Elementary. 

woman standing at a podium speaking
Charlie’s mom Danielle Fernandez shares Charlie’s story during press conference at Saddlewood Elementary.

“This Foundation has graciously chosen Charlie as a child they are going to honor by building a fully accessible playground that will have features for children who are visually impaired,” said Charlie’s mom Danielle Fernandez. “The playground will be built as a second playground at Saddlewood and will reflect our sweet Charlie’s vibrant and brave personality. Charlie loved to play and her most favorite place was the playground at Saddlewood. This opportunity would be such a special gift to both the school and greater community in honor of Charlie.”

The project, expected to be completed by fall of 2023, will be led by the Where Angels Play Foundation, with oversight by the South Colonie Central School District and the Fernandez family. Over the years, the Where Angels Play Foundation has worked with families across the northeast to establish playground areas like the one proposed, most notably in honor of students and staff impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in Newtown, CT.

“Charlie meant so much to our school community and her family wanted to create something special in her honor but also have it benefit the Saddlewood Elementary students and our community at large,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Perry. “This is a perfect example of the kindness and consideration we receive after establishing these deep connections with our students and families. We are excited to partner with Charlie’s family on this special project and welcome our community to view its progress and utilize this area in the way that Charlie would have intended. To have fun and enjoy the outdoors together.”

“We are excited to build a playground in honor of Charlie Fernandez, who is an inspiration to her family, classmates and community,” said Bill Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play. “We have created many playgrounds globally, including one for each child lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. We continually seek to create joyful places to play that provide hope and recovery for all.” 

The Fernandez family has partnered with the Where Angels Play Foundation to develop the fundraising to complete the project. More information about this community-based foundation can be found here:

About Where Angels Play Foundation

The Where Angels Play Foundation was founded and its first tribute initiative “The Sandy Ground Project” was completed in just 18 months. Twenty-six playgrounds were constructed along the coast of three states and built by firefighters, police officers, teachers, school administrators and community volunteers. Each playground reflects the personality of the teacher or child for whom it is named and the project had unanimous approval and blessings of all 26 families.

These very same Newtown families have chosen to “pay it forward” by helping to continue our initiative to build playgrounds in needy communities across the country. More information about the organization can be found here: