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Column: 'I've the best day job in Ireland' says Barretstown CEO

People often think that working with ill children must be upsetting, but it is anything but, says Barretstown’s Dee Ahearn, who writes about how Barretstown helps children and families enjoy life again and why we all need to help ensure that work continues.

Dee Ahearn

I AM VERY proud to hold the position as the CEO of Barretstown, it really is the best day job in Ireland. Everyday I get to see children and their families enjoying life again. People often ask me if it can be a sad job and whether it can be upsetting. It is anything but, I get to see children, who are usually stuck in hospital or who are struggling with their illness, having fun. Even if it is just for a little while, they feel like normal kids again. So much of their lives since they got ill are about hospital visits, doctors, tests and operations. We get to give them a break from all that, so they can get back to being children again.

Sick children are often deprived of many of the elements of a normal childhood while they undergo long and difficult treatment. While medicine can help cure the illness and very often produces great results, psychologically, an illness and long-term treatment in hospital can leave scars. They can often lose confidence and self esteem and because they might be lacking in contact with other children; we try and build that back up with activities in the camp and with children who are going through the same experiences. Parents have often said that while their children are here it’s like they’ve been given back their children, the happy children they used to know.

Leave the illness at the door

We like to use the saying that we “leave the illness at the door” in Barretstown. Children who come here are just like any other children and we treat them as such. They get to make friends with children that understand the hardship and struggles they are facing. Often children who have best friends who are not sick or who have friends in school, it can be difficult. Of course, it is not like their friends don’t care for them, but life goes on while they are still sick. The children come here to enjoy life again as often they have to miss out on a lot of things that their other friends are doing like school trips, birthday parties and sleep-overs.

We work to give children their childhoods back – that is what makes my job. Yes, my job has challenges and struggles, like raising the funding we have to meet each year. What does upset me is not the children that I see who are ill, but the fact that there is a waiting list of families that I want to help. But we need funding to do that. We get 3 per cent of our funding from the government but we need to fundraise €4.5 million each year so we can provide these services.

We’ve come a long way – but we still need your help

Our mission at Barretstown’s is to rebuild the lives of children affected by serious illness and their families. We’ve believed that ever since Barretstown was founded by Hollywood actor Paul Newman in 1994. Since then, we have come a long way and will soon be celebrating our twentieth anniversary. We’re also looking forward to having camper number 25,000 come and visit us, which will be a huge milestone for us.

All of the children and families come to Barretstown free of charge. Everything, including accommodation, food, medical assistance and round-trip airfares are provided at no cost to the family. We are reliant on the public to help us, which is why we are asking the public to help us raise much needed funds so we can enable more sick children to experience the magic of camp.

You can help by texting the word WAND to 50300 to donate €2. 100 per cent of this €2 donation will go directly to Barretstown and help more children with cancer visit camps this year.

I also want to make sure that other families who are out there, who are struggling and finding it difficult to cope, they need to know that we are here for them if needs be.

(Via Barretstown)

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(Via Barretstown)

Dee Ahearn is the Chief Executive of Barretstown. For more information on how to help Barretstown please click here.

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About the author:

Dee Ahearn

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