"That's the difference with Barretstown. It's about bringing the child back."
By supporting Barretstown today, you'll be helping us give more children and their families the chance to enjoy some fun, hope and laughter, and allow them to experience the life-changing therapeutic programmes when they need them most. We are continuing to serve our families virtually through our Barretstown Live Virtual Camps, but we need your support now more than ever, to help us reopen our gates and welcome our families back to Barretstown.
Please, make a donation today and help us Press Play on childhood.I want to help
''Seeing a confident and smiling child... we hadn't seen that side of him in so long'' - Agnes, Alex's Mum.
Easter is normally a time where families can come together to enjoy each other's company. But every year, I'm reminded of the terrible pain and anguish our whole family suffered when my son, Alex, was diagnosed with Cancer.
It all started at the beginning of 2019, when Alex was just 10 years old. He'd always been exceptionally healthy. We went away for St. Patrick's Day but Alex really wasn't well. He was complaining about a pain in his head all weekend. I took him to see the doctor, who noticed a swelling in Alex's face and told us to go to A&E. It was a relief when the team at the hospital told us Alex was fine and that it might be cluster headaches. But just a few weeks later, we had another scare when Alex's coach called to say Alex had trouble breathing. I was advised to take him for allergy tests, but this time, the doctor seemed more worried.
We went for an MRI scan, which is when everything changed. At first, they mentioned it might be a brain tumour, but whatever it was, it was in the base of the skull, not the brain. So they sent us to Temple Street for biopsies. That's when we found out what it was.
Rhabdomyosarcoma. A rare form of cancer. My son has cancer.
“It's a huge thing for a child to try and take on board. A huge thing for all of us. Alex was very innocent then and didn't really know what was going on. It was completely unimaginable to us all. Sadly, he lost that innocence along the way.” – Agnes
Alex started having chemotherapy and radiotherapy straight away, going forward and back from where we live in Co. Clare to Crumlin for months and months. We spent a whole year completely consumed by everything medical. In late 2019, we even had to move to Germany for seven weeks so Alex could have a specialist treatment not available here. All of this turmoil hit Alex's big sister Sophie very hard too.
Thankfully, a social worker recommended Barretstown to us and were able to attend camp at the end of February 2020. Straight away, we saw the importance of it because Alex had missed out on so much in his life.Donate
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“The weekend we were there was the first time in almost a whole year that we spent time together away from the house as a family that wasn't in some way connected to a medical appointment.” – Agnes
Laughter is a Medicine
My main memory is of just watching Alex, seeing how he evolved over the weekend. It was the first time from when he started treatment that he really laughed and was a child again. He let go. There was a silliness about him that hadn't been before that. One thing that really helped him was seeing other children who had lost their hair because of chemo. His hair was just starting to come back at that point and it really helped him to see kids being carefree about it. He started to think ''Ok, maybe I can take my cap off.''
That incredible weekend at Barretstown was going to be our turning point. After everything we'd been through, it felt like we were starting to move forward and get our lives back. But it didn't work out like that.
The very next week, COVID-19 hit Ireland and we had to go into lockdown. Ever since we got back from Barretstown, we've literally stayed in. Instead of moving forward, Alex has lost another year of his young life. He just wants his life back, his childhood back. One of the big disappointments for Alex was not being able to go to Summer Camp at Barretstown last year. It's not just the fact that he gets to have fun at Barretstown that makes it so special. It isn't just like going on a holiday. It's the therapeutic side of it too, that's the difference.
Right now, Alex is doing really well, but we are always watching closely for any signs of relapse. More than anything, Alex wants to go back to Barretstown. We need to make this happen, he has lost over two years of his childhood. We're not the only ones. There are thousands of families like ours across Ireland who have been through the isolation of lockdown while living with serious illness and who desperately need Barretstown's therapeutic programmes to help.
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Joy & Magic
Our arts and crafts team are always on hand with paint, facepaint, crayons, craft paper, bracelet beads, feathers and everything you can imagine, to bring out the creative side in each child!
All of our camps and programmes are designed to respond directly to the needs of a child living with a serious illness – both clinical and psychological. Our unique model of challenge, discovery, reflection and success is recognised by paediatricians and psychologists all over the world as an important and necessary component of a child’s treatment.
The loss of control that many children and their families experience as a result of a serious illness can gradually erode confidence, diminish self-esteem, body image and coping skills. We aim to give this back by empowering and encouraging each individual to step out of their comfort zone and begin to re-build their confidence, trust and self-esteem and discover something new about themselves and their ability.
We believe that fun should be an integral part of what we do. Fun and laughter are key ingredients in improving the lives of those affected by serious illness.
Our outreach programme brings the playful spirit of Barretstown beyond the gates of our beautiful castle into hospitals and communities all over the country.