Community Days

We Are the Center for Developmentally Disabled

The Center for Developmentally Disabled (CDD) is a private, not-for-profit corporation founded in 1972. CDD provides residential care services and day habilitation to adults with developmental disabilities in the greater Kansas City, MO area. Accredited by CARF, CDD maintains national quality of service standards for our housing and community placement options and opportunities.

We exist to support persons with disabilities in achieving their fullest potential.

We believe each person is unique, and their personal journey should be respected and supported. With encouragement and assistance, everyone can make lifestyle choices. Each person has the right to be treated with kindness, respect and freedom from intimidation. Lives are enriched through social relationships, community involvement and access to comfortable and safe residential opportunities.

See how you can get involved with CDD, and put your donation to use for good!

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Stories from CDD

There are many reasons why people work for CDD. Here are a few of their stories.

Leilani’s StoryJess’ Story EJ’s Story Karrie’s Story

Leilani’s Story

Leilani Haywood, CDD Board of Directors

My Hyundai Sonata was parked in my neighbor’s yard across the street with the engine running. Sitting in the driver’s seat was D’Andra, my daughter with Down syndrome. Earlier she told me she wanted me to take her to McDonald’s. I told her I had to take care of something on my laptop after an urgent email from a client popped up on my smartphone.

“I’ll just be a few minutes,” I told her. She crossed her arms, defiant. She was upset. She wanted to go now!

My neighbor, Tracy came out and said he was glad she hadn’t hit anyone. “I’m sorry for the damage to your yard,” I said. “Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad she’s safe,” he said. Yes. Safe in my parked car with the engine running in his yard.

I motioned to her to lower the window. She shook her head no. I called her on her cellphone and she refused to answer. I then called a locksmith to come and unlock the car because I didn’t have a spare key.

Thirty minutes later she opened the door, crying. “I’m sorry mom!” She wailed. I hugged her and told her it was OK. I called the locksmith and canceled the service. We got in the car and drove it back across the street into the driveway. 

D’Andra is the only child out of my three who attempted to drive my car at 13. She is the only one who also called a SWAT team to our house because she was mad that we wouldn’t take her to McDonald’s. Loving D’Andra has been a constant adventure.

We have made each other cry and laugh. She is also the only child who has brought me breakfast in bed. Made Spaghetti for dinner. Cleaned the kitchen without being asked. Told me, “Mom, this is enough,” after no one showed up for her party. She was happy that I was at her party.

I’ve learned how to love unconditionally from her, how to persevere with difficult people and relax when my plans unravel. While I was scared at the prospect of having a child with special needs, I can’t imagine life without her.

Creating a safe space for adults with disabilities to thrive, and be loved and cared for is an urgent need in Kansas City. D’Andra is why I’m passionate about the Center for Developmentally Disabled.

Jess’ Story

Jess Neely, Field Trainer at CDD

Growing up I had a big sister name Christina that had Down syndrome. I never really understood that she was “different” medically. She had certain features people would stare at, she was on oxygen 24/7 due to other medical conditions, the doctors only gave her until the age of 12. My mom would take her to specialists constantly in Utah to get the best medical care she could. She always lived with my family, and it was unknown whether she could ever be independent enough to live on her own or live longer than what doctors had predicted.

This led me to working part-time as a Direct Support Professional while I was in college in Warrensburg. I soon fell in love with the work and stepped up to a full-time Residential Specialist. As I grew more knowledgeable about the company I was with, I became a Program Director and wanted to make the best possible living conditions for my individuals. I had a heart for them and always advocated for them as if they were my own family, because most of them unfortunately didn’t have any family besides the staff that came and worked directly with them.

This is where I met my “brother”, Sean, who also has Down syndrome. He was living in one of the group homes and was the youngest individual we had and had a hard time bonding with others since they were 25+ years older than him. Since he is just a year older than I am, I became close with his mom and dad, and I started letting him hang out with my friends outside of work so he could bond with people his own age.

After leaving that company, our friendship grew stronger, and he and his parents started telling everyone he was my brother (we sure fight like siblings so it made sense). I still advocate for Sean as his version of a perfect life is very important to me.

Unfortunately, in January of 2021, my sister Christina passed away, however, she defied all odds and lived until she was in her 40’s. I firmly believe that with strong advocates, love, and care, our individuals can lead and live a full and happy life.

That is a huge reason I am in this field. I want to continue helping our individuals live out their perfect life with support, kindness, and love. Our individuals grow to love us and they grow to trust that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure they are taken care of and safe. What a feeling, am I right?

One of the best feelings I have ever felt is serving our individuals and knowing they know just how much I care about them and growing a true friendship with them. I could go on and on, but this is a small blurb of why I work for CDD.

EJ’s Story

EJ Navarrete, Program Trainer at CDD

Growing up I’ve always had my younger brother by my side and only a year and four months apart. I never really understood his disabilities or knew of intellectual disability or cerebral palsy. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized what it was or even meant.

I remember my mom always saying that the doctors would say that he wouldn’t be able to walk, ride a bike, or do some of the other things we did as kids.

With the help and work of my mom and my older sisters he overcame a lot of obstacles in life and learned how to do things the doctors said that he never would. I remember us just playing and having fun even if he was in his leg brace or at times a walker. That didn’t matter to us we were being kids.

When we started school that’s when I felt there was a difference because he didn’t go to the same elementary school as I did and went to a special school for kids that were disabled. It wasn’t until junior high school that they stopped the segregation, and we were able to attend the same school together.

For him that made a big difference in his life and the fact that he could be with his big brother again and doing the same things that I did.

When I started to run track and field, my coach made it a point to also have him on the team to help and make sure he felt that he was part of the team.

At that point in my life, I didn’t want him to feel any different than I. My friends became his friends, and we are once again acting as teenagers and hanging out and didn’t see his disability, but we saw him as Eddie my little brother.

Karrie’s Story

Karrie Duke, Director of Development at CDD

My son Travis will be 30 later this year. He is a friendly, smart handsome guy who happens to live with a developmental disability. The year Travis turned six, we learned he had epilepsy, as well as Asperger’s Syndrome, and a depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, his epilepsy is uncontrolled which prevents him from doing things like driving, sky diving and scuba diving. He reminds us of this often! I ask him if he would really want to sky dive, and he laughs and says probably not.

Although there are things he can’t do, there are a lot of things he can do … and does well. Travis is a history buff, and can tell you a lot of facts about the Civil War and World War I. He loves exotic animals and keeps a tarantula and a scorpion as pets.

Travis is a life-long Texas Longhorn fan and loves to attend games! Throughout his teens and early 20’s Travis was prone to anger outbursts, deep depressive episodes and threats of suicide. As he has aged, those issues have become less severe.

Today, Travis lives in the mother-in-law quarters on his dad’s farm in Texas. He is a terrible housekeeper, but is proud to have his own space! He has a girfriend and attends a day program. He is a loving son, brother and uncle. We love him so much!

Travis is my inspiration, and the reason that I came to be involved with CDD 10 years ago.

Make a Difference with CDD

Your donations help in many ways! Help provide basic necessities, and community activities to individuals with developmental disabilities. When you donate to CDD, your gift will be put to work immediately. Would you be willing to help by giving a donation? Every penny helps.