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"The joy music brings Karen inspired me to set it up": Williams Syndrome summer camp coming to Limerick

The camp will bring together 80 young people from Ireland and other countries around Europe.

Image: Marc O'Sullivan

A NEW SUMMER camp will bring together 80 young people with Williams Syndrome from across Europe through music and culture.

Ann Breen decided to set up the camp after seeing the positive effect music had on her daughter Karen, who has Williams Syndrome.

Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects approximately 100 families in Ireland. It can cause development problems including learning disabilities, heart problems, narrowed blood vessels and musculoskeletal problems.

Ann remembers Karen, who is now in her early 30s, being calmed by music if she was upset when she was younger.

As she got older, we brought her to music camps abroad a number of times and that’s when we discovered she has perfect pitch.  She plays the keyboard, composes her own music, and has very definite opinions about the type of music she does and doesn’t like.
The joy Karen gets from music inspired me to set up music summer camps for other people with Williams Syndrome.

The week-long summer camp starts tomorrow and caters for people aged 13 to 30 with Williams Syndrome. This camp, organised by the Williams Syndrome Association of Ireland, is the first time the European Youth Exchange has been hosted in Ireland.

The initial European Youth Exchange camp took place in Norway in 2005 and similar exchanges have been held in other European countries since.

BL5Q9647 Source: Marc O'Sullivan

The camp was launched on Wednesday by Minister Simon Harris and jazz singer Honor Heffernan. Speaking at the launch, Ann explained the aim is to encourage musical talent and showcase Ireland’s culture to the European visitors.

According to Ann, almost all people with Williams Syndrome have hyper-sensitive hearing and some have perfect pitch and great musical talents.

Aside from music workshops, there will be theatre workshops, nature trails, an introduction to Gaelic games, and day-trips to Bunratty Castle and the Cliffs of Moher.

BL5Q9954 Alan Keady and Minister Simon Harris Source: Marc O'Sullivan

This week’s camp will be Alan Keady’s fourth time taking part in the European Youth Exchange programme and he’s very excited.

He said:

Although my mam will be there as a leader, I’ll still get to enjoy my own independence.
I’m really looking forward to the week in Limerick and getting the chance to meet new friends, as well as linking back up with friends and leaders who I’ve met before. Being able to play instruments and learn about new cultures I’ve never heard of before will be great.

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Roisin Nestor

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