Transforming lives for 30 years, Barretstown’s legacy of hope

A recent report published by Barretstown commemorating its 30th anniversary in Ireland has revealed significant social value contributions, totaling €1.9 billion, attributed to its therapeutic programs for children affected by cancer and other serious illnesses since 1994.

The report, titled "The Social Impact and Social Value of Barretstown 1994-2023," outlines the organisation's investment of over €145 million to serve more than 120,000 campers to date. It forecasts this number to increase to over 250,000 campers by 2030, as Barretstown expands its medically endorsed residential and outreach camps and programs.

Barretstown's programs align with the objectives of the National Cancer Strategy, catering to the psychosocial well-being of children and teenagers impacted by cancer. The report, authored by Sandra Velthuis of Whitebarn Consulting, highlights the breadth of medically endorsed therapeutic programs offered to seriously ill children and their families throughout Ireland.

Survey responses from parents of seriously ill children emphasised specially designed programs, professional staff, and on-site medical facilities as key factors in their decision to attend Barretstown. All programs provided by Barretstown are free of charge, funded primarily by donations (98%) and government funding (2%).

Speaking at the report's launch, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly acknowledged the unique and important role Barretstown plays in the lives of seriously ill children throughout the country saying:

“I am delighted to launch this report today on behalf of the Government and acknowledge the tremendous work of Barretstown over the past 30 years. I know that the excellent therapeutic care and recreational services Barretstown provides are essential components of our healthcare system."
The report also estimates that the wellbeing outcomes for seriously ill children who experience Barretstown’s interventions can be valued at €858 million, while for siblings of seriously ill children it comes to over €436 million and for their parents €543 million.
Dee Ahearn, CEO, Barretstown commented:
“While hospitals treat the illness, our focus is on treating the child. We now know from the latest medical and psychological research the importance of supporting a child’s psychosocial development in the aftermath of a childhood illness. When our founder Paul Newman established Barretstown it was with the novel idea of using the transformative power of a camp experience to rebuild a child’s emotional wellbeing and sense of self. That idea is now a core pillar of strategic national health policy with Barretstown making an important contribution in response to this."
“As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, this report provides a timely insight into the evolution of the organisation which has gone from supporting over 100 children and family members in our first year of operations, to this year supporting over 22,000. Using peer reviewed research, one-to-one interviews with key stakeholders and survey responses, it provides a valuable insight into the impact of Barretstown on the lived experiences of children and families."
Professor Owen Smith, UCD Professor of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, and
Medical Patron, Barretstown stated:
“The services provided by Barretstown have a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of children who are facing the challenge of cancer or other serious illnesses. The value of its therapeutic camps and programmes cannot be underestimated. In the context of responding to a serious illness, we know that the response needs to be, not only medication, but also focusing on the person, and their wellbeing and adopting a more holistic response as part of a comprehensive treatment plan."
Barretstown was founded by Hollywood actor Paul Newman in 1994 and modelled on his renowned Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, USA. It serves children affected by cancer and other serious illnesses, and their families. Barretstown’s mission is to rebuild the lives of these children and their families through the provision of therapeutic camps and programmes underpinned by robust research. Barretstown believes that every child with a serious illness should enjoy their childhood. Barretstown’s essential therapeutic camps and programmes are a vital part of a child’s illness journey, supported by 24/7 medical care at our 500-acre campus. For more information see