Whiteleys Retreat – 23 April 2019
Most of the club members were already aware of the history of the former CLIC Sargent House in Prestwick. When it closed in 2016 a small group of volunteers set out to ensure that there would continue to be a much-needed respite facility for children and young people with cancer and life altering illness in Ayrshire. A new Ayrshire charity, Whiteleys Retreat, was formed in December of that year and thanks to the devotion of volunteers throughout Ayrshire (both in the community and corporate sectors) the team set out to fundraise, renovate and open Whiteleys Retreat in September 2018.
Bernard Smith is general manager of the complex which sits in the gentle countryside a mile or two outside Alloway. Although, in his introduction, Bernard claimed to be not much of a public speaker he captivated his audience with his unscripted and at-times harrowing explanation of the caring ethos which permeates the organisation. He said that nothing could be worse for young children and their families than living with a terminal disease and that the over-riding aim of Whiteleys is to create everlasting memories for the families. The week-long retreats allow families the opportunity, in quiet, five-star surroundings, to forget their many difficulties, at least for a short while, in the quiet sanctuary which is Whiteleys. Practical support to the families, from diagnosis to end-of-life, is crucial since their own lives are turned upside down in many ways. Loss of employment, financial concerns, social isolation and unintentional neglect of the sufferer’s siblings all add to the massive difficulty of simply caring for the child. Effective, unobtrusive caring has to address those many aspects of the families’ suffering.
Bernard told heart-breaking tales of courage and grief but emphasised the much-needed, positive contribution Whiteleys were making towards supporting these unfortunate families throughout the most difficult time of their lives. There will be an open-day at the retreat on 6 June and further information can be found at http://www.whiteleysretreat.com .