By Ginger DeShaney

Ground was officially broken Monday afternoon on the Michael Joyce Memorial Playground at Marine Park.

The $1.4 million renovation project came together through the strong partnerships of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Colin’s Joy Project, the Joyce family, colleagues in the Legislature, and the City of Boston, said Bethany Card, Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs with the Baker-Polito administration.

Family members, local and state officials, friends, neighbors, and South Boston Catholic Academy students (who helped in the design process) were on hand for the ceremony. 

“We are so grateful to the McGrath family for committing about $600,000 through the Colin’s Joy Project to build on the renovation work the playground underwent in 2014 to ensure that children of all abilities can play in a safe and fun environment,” Card said. “Thank you for inspiring us all. DCR, for its part, will match these funds through its capital plan budget and additional funds have also been dedicated through the Commonwealth’s budget.

“As families, as parents, as members of a community, we all know the important role that playgrounds and open spaces play in our young people’s lives. And it’s so wonderful to be here today to celebrate this work,” Card said. 

This playground will be the most accessible playground within DCR’s portfolio, Representative David Biele said. “Children and families of all ages and all abilities can enjoy this wonderful space.”

DCR Commissioner Doug Rice noted, “We are so excited to be celebrating the start of work on the Michael Joyce Memorial Playground, a project that has been years in the making, and one which celebrates two Bay State families and their legacies. 

“First, we are so grateful to the McGrath family and Colin’s Joy Project … The Colin’s Joy Project aims to enhance play spaces and sponsor family programming in our communities. We appreciate the McGrath family for their thoughtful contribution and ongoing support of the Michael Joyce Memorial Playground.

“We’re also celebrating the lifelong community-based contributions of Michael Joyce,” Rice continued. “Mr. Joyce was an advocate for the immigrant community who gave selflessly of his time and energy to make life better for those around him.”

Mary Joyce, daughter of Michael, was honored to be at the groundbreaking. Her hardworking father came to Boston from Ireland. He worked two and three jobs for his family and he was so respected and so loved that he went to the Statehouse, where he served under four speakers before cancer took him at age 66, she said.

“The Irish say if people talk about you, you’re not really gone,” Joyce said. “And people still talk about Michael Joyce and what a gift he was to all of us.”

The existing Michael Joyce playground was the last playground in South Boston that Colin ever played at, his mom, Kerri McGrath, said. The night before the accident, Kerri was on her way home from work and texted her nanny to ask where they were. They were at the playground and Colin did not want to leave, the nanny told her.

“I just started walking toward here to meet them because I was so excited to see them,” McGrath said. “And I remember his face in the stroller that day and just how excited he was to have spent the day here and to have played here …he was having a great day.”

Through Colin’s Joy Project, the McGrath family continues to create that joy for other families.

After the speaking program, officials and family members grabbed shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Then Sloane McGrath’s South Boston Catholic Academy classmates helped break ground, too.