Program for adults with developmental disabilities stays open amid founder’s cancer battle

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A Burlington County program for adults with developmental disabilities was almost forced to close after its founder became ill. But thanks to the efforts of volunteers, Kate’s Place is still in business.

Joann McNamee founded Kate’s Place and named it after her own daughter who also has disabilities.

"They come in and walk around and play their music and talk about their boyfriend or girlfriend or what they did over the weekend and then we have a snack,” McNamee says. “We provide only fresh fruit, fresh vegetables – healthy snack items. After that, we do a lot of physical activity. We might be doing volleyball, kickball, tennis, baseball - anything like that."

The program has been operating out of Moorestown for 12 years. But about a year and six months ago, McNamee began the fight of her life.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she says.

She says that her illness meant that operating Kate’s Place three times a week would become difficult. But she said that shutting down wasn’t an option for her volunteers or her daughter.

“I helped her with dishes, laundry and medicine,” says Kate.

The volunteers also stepped up.

“It was important to use because it was so important to Joann,” says volunteer Liz Heusser. “She did real well. It was hard – there were times when she just didn’t feel well, she was uncomfortable, she was nauseous. But I don’t think she missed one time, not once.”

After two surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, McNamee says that she is healthy. She says she has no plans to stop running Kate’s Place.

"I do it with all my heart and I do it for all of them because I love all of them,” she says.

Kate’s Place is open to adults 18 and over. They meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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