Speech by Sabina Higgins at a Lunch in aid of Barretstown
Barretstown, Thursday 28th September 2023
Friends, distinguished guests, and fellow supporters of Barretstown,
I am truly honoured to have the pleasure of being here with you today at this lunch, an event which celebrates importantly the incredible journey of resilience undertaken by the children of Barretstown – this haven of hope and healing for so many young people who are battling serious illness. The lunch for key supporters of Barretstown celebrating the very special milestone of Barretstown serving 100,000 campers, has an Irish design theme and we look forward to the showcasing of Irish Fashion and their fine creations of our talented Irish designers.
I am very proud to be Patron of Barretstown since 2014. This amazing organisation, founded in 1994 by the late Hollywood actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman, and who will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, has been a beacon of light for countless children and their families, providing them with care, joy and adventure. The heart-warming stories of children finding their inner strength, confidence, and self-esteem, and the profound impact that you have made on so many young people, facing the most challenging circumstances, stands as a testament to the power of coming together in the name of healing and joy.
Barretstown’s mission is to rebuild the lives of children with cancer and other serious illnesses, and their families, through the provision of therapeutic camps and programmes that are underpinned by robust research. This year alone, Barretstown will support over 17,000 children and family members.
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.
Their emotional and psychological well-being often suffers in the face of such adversity. Barretstown recognizes this aspect of healing, and its mission goes beyond medical treatment. It reaches into the realm of the spirit, kindling the flames of courage and resilience within these young persons.
Children, no matter where they come from, are endowed with an innate ability to fight back from adversity. They possess an extraordinary resilience that often leaves adults humbled and in awe. Barretstown, with its commitment to therapeutic recreation, recognizes the pivotal role that creative expression and outdoor adventures play in nurturing this resilience.
Therapeutic recreation, is not just about having fun, it is about restoring dignity and fostering a sense of normalcy in the midst of medical challenges. The activities provided at Barretstown transcend the realm of mere enjoyment, becoming tools for healing, empowerment, and growth. Through these activities, children learn to redefine their limitations, conquer their fears, and stand tall in the face of adversity. It is a journey of self-discovery and self-rediscovery – one that lights the path to renewed self-esteem and confidence, self consciousness and authenticity.
Barretstown provide a great number of programmes that help children in a variety of ways.
The hospital outreach program, which brings the positive spirit of Barretstown to children confined to hospital rooms, is a shining example of this commitment, providing the opportunity to bring the magic of the camp beyond the castle gates and to reach an even wider group of children living with serious illnesses.
Education is another cornerstone of Barretstown's mission. The school outreach and education program not only enlightens young minds about the realities of children's illnesses in an interactive and child-friendly manner but also fosters empathy and understanding among their peers.
I am also delighted to hear of the success of the Enchanted Forest programme. In this wonderful sustainable initiative, launched in conjunction with the Tree Council of Ireland, supporters can sponsor a tree which will be planted in the grounds of Barretstown and dedicate it in honour of someone special.
The success of such programmes can be identified in a study conducted by Yale School of Medicine with parents of children affected by serious illness, which 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.
As we gather today, we might also reflect on the broader canvas of our collective efforts in light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Barretstown's work echoes the sentiment of Goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. By fostering an environment where physical, emotional, and psychological healing coalesce, the organisation aligns its mission with the global commitment to holistic health.
Moreover, the spirit of inclusion and unity at Barretstown resonates with Goal 10 of the SDGs, reducing inequalities. Children from various countries, cultures, and backgrounds converge at this camp, forming a tapestry of diversity that defies the boundaries of illness and adversity. It is a place where differences are celebrated, connections are forged, and empathy blooms.
Today, we also mark a special milestone – the incredible achievement of reaching out to 100,000 children and family members since the camp first opened its doors in 1994, isn’t that just incredible?
This achievement is a testament to the unwavering dedication of your volunteers, the compassion of your supporters, and the indomitable spirit of the children themselves. Each life touched, each smile rekindled, and each dream reawakened form a mosaic of hope that has the power to illuminate even the darkest of times.
None of this would be possible without the dedicated volunteers who pour their time, energy, and love into every aspect of Barretstown's mission. Their steadfast support and boundless compassion form the backbone of this incredible endeavour. May I express my deepest admiration and gratitude to these remarkable individuals who have, through their selflessness, become the embodiment of hope for these children and their families. Your dedication is a beacon of light that guides these children toward a future brimming with potential and promise.
In conclusion, friends, as we enjoy the elegance of Irish fashion and revel in the camaraderie of this special lunch, let us be conscious of the profound significance of this event. Let us remember the intricate journey of healing that each child embarks upon within the nurturing embrace of Barretstown. Let us continue to support this remarkable institution, as it not only changes lives but also shapes a future where care, understanding, and love reign supreme. Together, we can weave a tapestry of compassion and hope that stretches far beyond this moment, touching the lives of generations to come.