When he first saw it, the Hollywood legend Paul Newman described it as a “paradise for kids”. Now 20 years later, thousands of children affected by childhood illness can attest to his vision for a 19th century castle in surrounded by rolling hills near Ballymore Eustace.
Barretstown Castle was owned by a succession of interesting people, but in 1994 it began the latest chapter in its colourful life.
It was modelled on Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in the US.
It serves children affected by serious illnesses – primarily cancer and serious blood diseases – from Ireland, Britain and throughout Europe, and their families.
Camps are entirely free of charge to the families who attend.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, the Barretstown is hosting what they’re describing as “a yearlong festival of events”.
Last Saturday, July 5, more than 2,000 people gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of the camp which has helped over 27,000 children with serious illnesses and their family members.
The day saw a fun packed show provided by Fossett’s circus and visitors also enjoyed the pet farm, bouncy castle as well as music and games.
“A lot has happened since Barretstown was founded in 1994,” said Chief Executive of Barretstown Dee Ahearn.
“We don’t stand still, we’re constantly evolving. In 2011 we launched our Hospital Outreach programme which enabled us to bring Barretstown into hospitals, giving children and families the opportunity to experience the Barretstown magic.
Looking forward to the next 20 years Ahearn said, “We aim to extend camps to cater for even more illness groups, to expand the camp calendar right through the winter months and to reduce our waiting lists.”