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'This playground is inspired by his soul'

The Jack Lyons playground opened Friday and is named after the 17-year-old boy who inspired it

It was an emotional morning at One Kids Place for the launch of a very unique playground named after a 17-year-old boy who inspired the project. 

The Jack Lyons Playground is "a sensory-friendly, accessible place for all kids to be kids," which is located behind One Kids Place in North Bay. 

Jack Lyons passed away in late April. His 13-year-old friend Seth Murray made an emotional speech about his friend and the new playground.  

"This is one in a million," said his friend Seth about Jack and the playground itself. 

"This park was all inspired by my friend, and it is really wonderful. His parents love him so much. This playground is inspired by his soul." 

See related: Popular teen who became the face of autism awareness will be remembered

Hannah Lyons, trying to hold back tears, told the large crowd of over 100 how much her older brother meant to her. 

"He changed my life, he changed my spirit," said Hannah, who was recently part of a dance performance at her school which raised money for this park. 

Hannah, mom Lesley and dad Mark Lyons - the driving force behind the playground fundraising - all took turns thanking One Kids Place and the community for all its support for Jack and the playground project.  

Despite Jack not being at the event in person, Mark knows Jack's spirit is alive in this new playground named after him.  

"I love it, I am dying with pride. Jack was always proud no matter what you do and I have to say it is the best day ever," Mark told the media.  

Katharine Strang, a development officer at One Kids Place, worked for more than five years with Lyons on fundraising for this and many other projects.  

"Very quickly it went from one piece of equipment to 11 pieces of equipment," Strang recalls. 

"It is the first of its kind in North Bay and it is very specific for children with autism and sensory challenges so it is very special." 

Strang says the equipment is used to either stimulate or calm the child using it. 

As another tribute to Jack Lyons, a maple tree has been planted in one corner of the playground in memory of him. 

Strang knows this playground is a legacy moment for One Kids Place and local children with autism.  

Lyons says he never had this kind of support when Jack was very young but he is hoping this park helps other families with young special needs children in the future.  

"It has been a marathon not a footrace to get this playground off the ground," said Mark. 

"We had to persevere through a lot of stuff and this park is what we now have for kids with autism. It speaks mountains about our community stepping up behind us and supporting this all the way through so we are proud of our community." 

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Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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