Barretstown changed my life and made me the person I am today


In January 2010, teenager Louise Johnston was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  Following a successful surgery, the tumour was removed. She underwent intensive physiotherapy over the next few months. Through the medical team who were taking care of her she became aware of Barretstown. As Louise nears her 21st birthday, she reflects on the time she spent in Barretstown, and what has driven her to stay involved.

I attended camp in 2010 and 2011. Barretstown came at a time in my life when my self-confidence was extremely low.  It gave me the opportunity to meet others who have been through similar circumstances and it allowed me to be a ‘normal’ child again, without any therapy or doctor appointments to worry about.  When I attended camp, I always said that I would love to volunteer when I’m older, and I have done just that now for two years. The staff were the people that made camp the happiest and most magical experience for me, and it’s fantastic to now be a part of other young people’s journeys.

Not long ago, I began to think about my upcoming 21st birthday, and I decided that I would hold a fundraising 21st  party.  I wanted to give something back and make even a small difference to a place that contributed so much to my recovery.  And so, my 21st wish came to life – to raise as much money as possible in the hope that more young people who are diagnosed with a serious illness may experience the magic of Barretstown.

The support I have received is incredible, beyond anything that I could have ever imagined.  I’ve created a hashtag #smileitforward where people can follow my fundraising campaign on social media. Home and Away star, Steve Peacocke, sports personalities including Gordan D’Arcy, Shane Lowry, Rio Ferdinand, Joey Barton and more have all got involved in promoting my campaign.  On the night of the 6th September, the party will take place – local Cavan band ‘The Highstool Prophets’ will provide entertainment, while six male volunteers will be getting waxed. It’s going to be a great night!

If you’d like to make a donation to Louise’s campaign you can do so here – http://www.mycharity.ie/event/louise_johnstons_21st/  A donation of €2 can also be made by texting ‘SMILE’ to 50300. You can follow her progress on Facebook/Twitter by searching on #smileitforward