Celebrities party to mark Barretstown’s 20th anniversary

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Gordon D’Arcy and Glen Hansard among 950 guests


Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Gordon D’Arcy and Glen Hansard were among 950 guests at what’s been called the biggest charity event of the year, the Barretstown 20th anniversary gala ball, at Dublin’s Convention Centre last night.

Barretstown camp in Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare, was founded by Paul Newman, and last night’s event was a celebration of the late actor’s vision to create a network of activity camps worldwide for seriously ill children and their parents. Clea Newman, the youngest daughter of Newman and Joanne Woodward, recalled the first time she came to Barretstown.

“Barretstown was our first camp in Europe, and my father called me and he said, ‘Honey, we’ve found it.’ I pulled onto the property and drove up that long driveway and saw that beautiful castle with the red door and I thought, oh my god, it’s magical. I was so enthralled and I just knew that anybody who saw it would feel the same way. It’s so extraordinary for the kids.”

Newman, who is director of external affairs at the Serious Fun Children’s Network, which runs 30 camps around the world, serving 75,000 children and their families, is delighted to be carrying on the work of her father, who died in 2008.

“I’m absolutely proud to do it, but it’s very big shoes. I don’t for one second think I can replace my dad. The kids inspire you, the families inspire you. It really does your heart good when you see the kind of support that’s come out for this programme and my father’s vision. When you see this kind of turnout, you feel like camp will be going on long after I’m gone.”

Jonathan Rhys Meyers took a break from shooting his new film in Casablanca, The Damascus Cover, to attend the ball.

“I got a letter from Joanne Woodward and Clea Newman asking me as an Irishman would I come and do this,” said Meyers. “I’m reciting a poem by a child and a mother from Barretstown. It’s an extraordinary charity in that it’s completely free of charge for parents and children worldwide. That’s flights, cars, everything. There’s no expense to the parents. That’s an extraordinary thing.”

“You see, I suppose everyone who’s born wants to leave the world a better place than they’ve found it. Paul Newman did, not only as an entertainer, very handsome and very famous, but he left the world better than he had particularly found it. And it’s a legacy that keeps going on and on and on. And more children get affected by it, and have better lives. And the parents have better lives. It’s a great charity.”

“With the 20-year anniversary, people have been a lot more generous,” said Leinster rugby international Gordon D’Arcy, who read out a letter from one of Barretstown’s children at the event. “I started working with [Barretstown] eight years ago, and when you meet kids with cancer and other serious diseases, and you see the way they deal with it, it doesn’t knock them out of their stride. They deal with adversity so well, it’s an inspiration to you. It makes you take a check and a look at your own life.”