Seven years ago Michelle Gannon and Maria McKeon had a vision of what contemporary health and healing after a woman’s cancer diagnosis should be, beyond the enormous generic hospitals and treatment protocols.

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Maria McKeon and Michelle Gannon, founders of Mary’s Place by the Sea in the living room of the new building.

Five thousand woman later, these ladies along with a team of volunteers and supporters, are about to welcome the first guests to their new 10,000 square foot facility at 22 Main Avenue in Ocean Grove.  The respite home was built from the ground up to be a place of hope and strength for guests to enjoy today and create a future that doesn’t involve being defined by a diagnosis.

“Maria and I always wanted to create a place that was part of the solution to better health and wellness,” said Michelle Gannon with tears in her eyes.  “The new Mary’s Place is a village of people working to create a sanctuary for women to take a deep breath, relax, and leave with hope.  This is a place of love.”

In addition to hosting nine overnight guests, the organization will welcome 10 daily guests for relaxation, emotional support, professional counseling, spa treatments and nutrition education.

“We love Mary’s Place,” said Dr. Denise Johnson-Miller, Neptune-based oncologist specializing in breast surgery.  “The facility offers women going through their cancer journey the break they may need to make it through to survivorship.”

One of the customized guest rooms of the new Mary's Place. Photo Mike Booth.

One of the customized guest rooms of the new Mary’s Place. Photos courtesy Mike Booth, Coaster.

Bathed in the paint color palate of a stunning Ocean Grove summer sunrise no aesthetic or therapeutic detail was overlooked.  Five panel solid-wood doors accented with brushed nickel hardware open to individual guest bathrooms accented with natural river stone.  The eco-friendly bamboo flooring leads to over-sized, wheelchair accessible spa treatment rooms featuring triple-crown mouldings.

Some of the suites were designed specifically for guests taking medication that may disorient them.  An oversized fireplace framed by a custom-made mantle is the centerpiece of the great room that serves double-duty as the house manager’s greeting room for guests.

The building’s exterior custom blue paint – examined by a team of “colorists” at various times of sun and moonlight – took hours to choose.

“Helping to build Mary’s Place was one of the few joys in a lifetime someone in my line of work can feel grateful for,” said Paul Gannon, lead contractor for the nearly $3 million project for the last 18 months.

View from the balcony of the new Mary's Place by the Sea.

View from the balcony of the new Mary’s Place by the Sea.

The five-level Mary’s Place was built from the ground up to welcome women at all stages in their cancer journey.  As well, the “intelligent” building is loaded with the latest technology to ensure everyone is happy, safe and comfortable.  All the aesthetic and technical details come together to make a breezy and welcoming environment but it’s what you can’t see that makes Mary’s Place especially beautiful.

“We took everything we learned over the past seven years that would help women and put it all into this building with the help of countless contracting professionals that donated their time,” said Gannon. “To see this go from a simple dream or idea to what we believe the future of healthcare should be is something unimaginable to me.  Unless you address the whole person and her emotional journey, it’s not a complete healing.  This building is 100% about helping people.”

Handing a tissue to Gannon, Co-Founder Maria McKeon agreed.  Together, these two ladies are nicknamed the “Thelma and Louise” of wellness for women after a cancer diagnosis.

“There is a sisterhood here; women who are more than one thing and stronger together,” said McKeon.  “This building is about love of people and doing everything we can to help and make a difference.  Our guests are not their cancer.  You can wake up and put your feet on the ground differently after coming here.  Women visit and hear different perspectives, look beyond their scans and forecasts and enjoy where they are today, right now.”

Ultimately, Gannon and McKeon hope to be part of the next generation of health and wellness.  They plan to share unconditionally what they learned about building and fostering the evolution of a respite home.  Long term, there could (and should) be more facilities around the country. Mary’s Place’s impact has the potential to be huge in scope while continuing to give the personal care that has made a difference to so many.

“We open our arms to our guests and feel with them,” said McKeon.  “This new building holds a heart and connection to every woman and their families who have been challenged by cancer.  To be an instrument in a woman’s healing is a blessing and something we are all grateful for.”

Visit for a guest application, their “wish list” or to make a donation.