At Barretstown we believe that every child with serious illness should enjoy their childhood.

Barretstown is a residential camp for children with a serious illness based in County Kildare (Ireland), offering a range of adventurous and challenging activities supported behind the scenes by safe, medical attention and care – always for free.

We work to rebuild the lives of children affected by serious illness, and their families, through a life changing Therapeutic Recreation programme in a safe, fun and supportive environment.

  • Children like Ashleigh Kiernan who shares her story here
  • Families like the Tonor Family who explain why Barretstown was so important to them after their daughter Emer was diagnosed with Cancer
  • Teenagers like Rachell Lett, who shares her story about living with Cancer as a teenager here and returning to Barretstown as a volunteer

The children, aged from 7 to 17, come from Ireland, UK and across Europe to take part in activities such as canoeing, high ropes, drama and arts and crafts. Through their achievements they regain confidence and self-esteem and their own inner strength.barretstown child

The children who come to Barretstown have often spent a long time in hospital and have been denied ordinary childhood experiences such as making friends, developing independence and social skills. At Barretstown they are encouraged to stop seeing themselves as sick kids and use their new-found confidence and skills to deal with the challenges of their everyday lives.

What the doctors say

Former Barretstown Medical Director Dr Fin Breatnach (Ret’d Director, National Haematology/Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Centre, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin):
Barretstown is a unique and invaluable element of cancer treatment and the process of rehabilitation. The therapeutic power of the programme changes children’s lives. They return home happier, with a more positive outlook, better able and more willing to participate actively in their own recovery process.

Peter Barbor, Paediatric Oncologist, UK:
We see the children arriving pale and tired and frightened and see them leave bright eyed, bushy tailed and full of self-confidence by which time the caras are pale and tired! It is very unusual to find children who complain about their problems , more often we have to find out what they are. They don’t want to miss the next activity. Most of them understand their drugs better than anyone. We hope that the children are hardly aware that they are being treated with some very strong drugs as we hope the relaxed attitude is all rather different from a hospital outpatient clinic.

Eric Bouffet, Director of the Paediatric Brain Tumour Program at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada:
The most striking thing is the change in the child between day one and day 10.

First you see tears because the child is completely lost and realises how precious the relationship is with his mum, dad and siblings. Now he has to live with other kids and be himself. At the end of the camp you see the same tears but the reason is that they realise how precious this experience was and they would like to stay. It is such a fascinating chain of events. The benefit for the kids is so obvious.

I have a clear idea of how much this experience has impacted on the family and the children’s lives. I wish every doctor had the chance to come to Barretstown and share the kids’ daily lives – this is how you realise what a fantastic and positive experience it is.

Paul M Zeltzer MD. Neuro-oncologist, USA:
I have seen with my own eyes, repeatedly, that 10 days at Barretstown helps return the person who was there prior to this disruption in their life. Before they leave, I see a sparkle in their eyes or a radiance in their voice that was barely present on day one. They can do this because of the community that is Barretstown.

How to get involved

Every year Barretstown needs between 700 and 800 volunteers to allow us to deliver our services. We are constantly looking for new and enthusiastic volunteers to help at our summer and family weekend camps. Full details on our volunteer programme can be found at archer

In addition we need on-going support to help maintain our wonderful site in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. We are always happy to welcome groups to help with painting, cleaning, gardening and other tasks that help to make Barretstown the safe, secure, peaceful and tranquil setting it is for the very special children and families who visit us here.

Barretstown working in partnership with our supporters

Barretstown has a successful record of working with the staff at organisations wishing to support the work at Barretstown . We work closely with each company to ensure they are getting the engagement, volunteer and PR opportunities important to them .Barretstown logo

We also know how important it is that staff understand where their hard work and fundraising efforts are going. In the past companies have worked to sponsor a weekend for 24 families to attend a bereavement programme at Barretstown; they have supported the purchase of new equipment for our med shed; they have sponsored individual campers to come to camp; they have sponsored an individual acitvity such as our equestrian or high ropes programmes.