Barretstown Welcomes Our 100,000th Camper!

Barretstown 100,000th Camper Milestone.
Picture by Shane O’Neill, Coalesce.


Barretstown, the largest and most established organisation in Ireland providing therapeutic recreation camps and programmes to children affected by cancer and other serious illnesses recently welcomed its 100,000th camper April Banks (10) to its campus. April who is battling neuroblastoma, a cancer which affects the nerve cells, together with her family are appealing to the nation to get behind a national fundraising appeal to raise €100,000 and increase volunteer numbers across the month of September to mark this special milestone for the charity.

This year alone, Barretstown will support over 17,000 children, up from 14,000 children in 2022, through the provision of research informed medically endorsed therapeutic camps and programmes in a series of fun-based activities for children and their families. On average, over 50% of the children supported annually by Barretstown are affected by oncology and haematology related illnesses.

Research has highlighted the psychological impact of a serious illness on a child or young adolescent, altering the trajectory of their emotional development and disrupting all aspects of their lives, including school, friendships, learning and development. Further to this, the HSE National Cancer Strategy recognises the complex needs facing adolescents and young adults and the “unmet” psychosocial needs of this group.*

A study conducted by Yale School of Medicine with parents of children affected by serious illness, found that 83% of parents indicated that their child’s self-confidence had increased and 74% felt their child’s independence had improved, after experiencing Barretstown’s camps and programmes. Furthermore, findings from the SeriousFun Children’s Network**, a global network of camps empowering children with serious illness, of which Barretstown is a member, found that past campers of Barretstown cited the significant positive impact of therapeutic recreation programmes on their sense of well-being and self-esteem.

All services provided to children and their families at Barretstown are free of charge, with only 2% of funding provided by the government with the remainder supported by donations and the fundraising efforts of corporate supporters, individuals, and community groups.

It is estimated that there are over 200 new diagnoses of children, aged 0-15, who present with paediatric-centric cancer or other haematological conditions and up to 180 cases of cancer among those aged 16-24, per year.***

CEO of Barretstown Dee Ahearn said,

“We know from research, the impact of cancer and other serious illnesses on the psychological and social wellbeing of children and young adolescents who are grappling with the debilitating physical impact of going through treatment.

“For someone at that age, their life is full of hospital visits, medication and treatment as opposed to enjoying the routine of school, sport, hobbies and friends. Their self-esteem, confidence and enjoyment in life takes a backseat and often at the most critical juncture in their young life. At Barretstown we say that hospital treats the illness, while Barretstown treats the child, pressing play on a childhood that has been disrupted through serious illness.

“This year alone, we intend to support over 17,000 children and family members with a plan to increase that to over 25,000 by 2028. All services are free of charge to children and families at Barretstown and delivered by a fully trained team of professionals, supported by 24/7 on site medical care. The delivery of these services is contingent upon the generosity of public support and as we mark this significant milestone, we are asking people to pledge their support to Barretstown by donating or signing up to be a volunteer.”

Prof Owen Smith, Professor of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Children’s Health Ireland, Crumlin, and Medical Patron of Barretstown, said,

“Barretstown is as important as the chemotherapy we give kids and adolescents with cancer and a key pillar in how we deliver inclusive comprehensive cancer care to our children and young people in Ireland.

“The importance of these therapeutic recreation programmes as part of a child’s recovery journey, cannot be underestimated with children increasing their confidence, self-esteem and independence after experiencing the programmes provided by Barretstown.

“The recently launched National Cancer Control Programme Model of Care for Psycho-Oncology Services for Children, Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer and their families, outlines the blueprint for the provision of psychosocial and psychological support services for this cohort over the lifetime of the National Cancer Strategy (2017-2026), and organisations like Barretstown play a crucial role in meeting the individual needs of these groups and providing a beacon of light for people at an incredibly difficult time in their lives.”


Katie Banks, mum of 100,000th camper April said,

“We are proud to get behind this very special fundraising campaign. Barretstown holds a truly special place in the hearts of all the Banks family, but in particular April, who has enjoyed incredible visits to camp. April was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer which affects the nerve cells in 2015, and as you can appreciate our world, has been turned upside down since that moment.

“Life has been full of hospital visits and treatments which have had a significant impact on April, physically as well as well as mentally, and it has of course changed the course of her life. She has missed out on so much and on many of the milestones you associate with a childhood that is not affected by serious illness. Despite all of this, and the multiple rounds of treatment in the intervening years, April has managed to keep a smile on her face and has been an inspiration to all of us.

“We were delighted to attend Barretstown in 2019 and to discover the amazing programmes that are on offer. As you can appreciate, childhood illness affects not only the child but the whole family, and Barretstown has provided our family with an opportunity to come together and to reconnect.

“It has put smiles on our faces, given us a sense a joy and an opportunity to forget, for a time, the reality of hospitals and treatment. It truly is magical, and I would urge as many people as possible to show their support.

“We are all aware of a child or family that are experiencing a serious illness and with that in mind, I would appeal to the public to remember this and to know that when you support Barretstown, you are helping children like April and families, like mine, to come here and to experience the life enhancing programmes of Barretstown.”

To find out more about Barretstown’s latest fundraising campaign visit barretstown.org/pledge and follow our campaign on socials #IPledge

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