Volunteer efforts supporting Kate’s Kause

When Juliane Shantz, doctor of audiology at the Ear and Hearing Clinic in Elmira, learned of the group of volunteers who wind the clock in the clock tower of her clinic, she wanted to show her gratitude.

“They’re volunteering their time, and I thought it would be nice to give back to the community [on behalf of] their efforts,” said Shantz. “So we’re making this donation to Kate’s Kause, hopefully to go towards the washrooms or whatever they’re doing next.”

“We just wanted to make sure that it went to a good cause,” said Jeff Hutchinson, a volunteer with the Society of Clock Winders.

The $1,350 donation will go towards the washroom facilities now under construction at the site, the latest development at Gibson Park courtesy of Kate’s Kause. The accessible playground first opened in 2012, the impetus of founder Kelly Meissner who’s daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS), a rare neurogenetic disorder affecting an estimated one in every 15,000 people. People living with AS have little or no verbal skills, poor gross and fine motor skills, and possible seizure and sleep disorders.

“Her diagnosis was really hard to hear, but we wanted her to reach maximum potential and live the best life that she could,” said Meissner. “In order to do that, we figured she needed to be included with her community.”

It only takes a trip to Gibson Park to see how involved Kate is with the Elmira community. Kate’s Place, a state-of-the-art accessible playground – equipped with jungle gyms, swings and even musical instruments – is available for children young and old to enjoy. Kate’s Place was first opened nine years ago, and there have been a number of additions to the space in the intervening years. Many of the improvements have come through donations such as the one from the Ear and Hearing Clinic.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Shantz. “I know this is a really good charity. They’re looking for some money right now because they’re doing all these wonderful things here.”

The donation will go towards the construction of fully accessible washroom facilities near the playground. Meissner noted that she wanted to install the washrooms after seeing families leaving the park early due to a lack of accessible restroom facilities.

“Everybody needs a spot to go to the bathroom that is safe and dignified,” she said. “A lot of our families who live with significant disabilities often have to leave the park and stop their play so that they can go and use a washroom somewhere else.”

With the new washrooms now under construction, Kate’s Place and it’s multitude of play spaces are an attraction fit for families with all types of accessibility concerns.

“It’s kind of been a dream come true, and to see it this loved is pretty amazing,” said Meissner. “Now we’ve got a spot where you can really spend the whole day.”

A child plays on a xylophone at the Kate’s Place park in Elmira. [ALEX FILIPE]

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