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major shortfall Barretstown issues emergency appeal after €1m drop in funding for camps for seriously ill kids

Like many charities, the pandemic has curtailed its normal fundraising activities and it is now struggling to cope with the massive shortfall in private donations.

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Barretstown provides children with an opportunity to have fun and enjoy themselves while recovering from serious illness. Stock image.

Barretstown provides children with an opportunity to have fun and enjoy themselves while recovering from serious illness. Stock image.

Barretstown provides children with an opportunity to have fun and enjoy themselves while recovering from serious illness. Stock image.

A CHARITY that helps children with serious and life-threatening illness has issued an emergency appeal for funds after experiencing a €1m shortfall in funding due to the pandemic.

The Barretstown children's charity - founded by the late Hollywood screen legend and philanthropist Paul Newman in 1994 - provides free camps and activities for children who are battling serious diseases like cancer.

But like many charities, the pandemic has curtailed its normal fundraising activities and it is now struggling to cope with the massive shortfall in private donations, 98pc of which are used to fund its day-to-day activities.

Despite the shortfall, it managed to provide services to 6,915 children and their families.

Yet there still remains more than 10,700 children and family members who are on a waiting list to take part in the charity's traditional on-site activities that have ground to a halt because of Covid-19 and may struggle to resume once the pandemic is over due to lack of funding.

But for many children who are facing life-threatening illnesses, the pandemic has underscored the need for an outlet like Barretstown like never before, according to the charity's CEO Dee Ahearn.

"Over the last year or so, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all our lives in so many ways," she said.

For one thing, after all the lockdowns I think we all know what it means to be isolated. For Barretstown families who have a seriously ill child, isolation is nothing new sadly."

"Many live with it for months or even years at a time, missing out on simple things like school and play dates that most of us take for granted, or at least used to.

"Then there are the families whose children have been diagnosed over the last year and are undergoing treatment right now.

"They are having a really tough time in hospitals with no visitors, no Barretstown Outreach team and no school room, just isolation."

"The longer our gates remain closed and the funding gap continues to grow, we will need to help more children and families than ever before with less money to do so."

Agnes O'Shaughnessy from Shannon, Co Clare, spoke of the vital services that the charity has given her son Alex who has undergone chemotherapy.

"When my son Alex and my family went to Barretstown, I remember it was the first time since Alex started treatment that my son really laughed and was a child again," she said.

"He let go. There was a silliness about him that hadn't been before that.

"One thing that really helped him was seeing other children who had lost their hair because of chemo.

"His hair was just starting to come back at that point and it really helped him to see kids being carefree about it.

"That's the difference with Barretstown. It is about bringing the child back."


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