Thursday 8 December 2016

A new library brings cheer to children in Barretstown

Ailin Quinlan

Published 08/11/2011 | 06:00

WRITER Benji Bennett and his wife Jackie felt they "lost everything" when their four-year-old son, Adam, died of a brain tumour in 2008. But this was also the spur for Benji's career change. The former marketing executive decided to become a children's author because, he recalls, it was an instinctive way of telling Adam how much he loved him.

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"My idea is for parents to snuggle up with their child, read a lovely bedtime story, and tell the child they love them," says the 41-year-old, who with his wife attended a bereavement programme at the well-known Barretstown Castle, in Kildare, following Adam's death. The couple has three other children, Harry (10), Robbie (four) and Molly (three).

Now an award-winning author -- he won an Irish Book Award in 2009 -- Benji recently joined best-selling novelist Cecilia Ahern in opening a library at Barretstown, an organisation which rebuilds the lives of children and families affected by serious illness.

The library of more than 500 books, which is being installed by Bord Gáis Energy, contains both adult and children's books in a total of 17 languages -- the camp takes children from all over Ireland and Europe.

The multi-lingual selection will accommodate campers from a variety of different countries including Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Poland, Denmark and Sweden.

"The Barretstown camp is all about magic, and about helping people to smile and laugh and function as a family once again," says Benji, whose latest book, 'Adam's World of Wonders', has been shortlisted for the 2011 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.

"Now Barretstown has its first library with books in multiple languages for children of all ages, and their parents and families, to get together, take a book and have a nice reading experience.

"There will be a lot of different opportunities for people to read different types of books -- from storybooks to self-help books to books which explain childhood cancer and bereavement to young children. It will be a resource there to help people who need it," Benji says, adding that his family was blown apart by the traumatic loss of little Adam.

"People talk about losing a house or a job -- we lost everything when we lost Adam. Our lives just fell apart. Thankfully we had strong family support," he says.

Members of the public are invited to donate books to the library. New or good-quality second-hand books can be posted to the Bord Gáis Energy Book Club, Bord Gáis Energy, One Warrington Place, Dublin 2. For further information log on to www.bordgaisenergybookclub.ie.

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