Hydrotherapy keeping cancer patients afloat in Kerry in conjunction with World Cancer Day

Funding from the National Lottery in 2023 allowed Recovery Haven Kerry to continue offering free hydrotherapy classes for its clients


Hydrotherapy classes are providing cancer patients in Kerry and surrounding counties with an outlet to help them claim back a fun and active life.  

Recovery Haven Kerry offers a safe place for cancer patients, their families, and carers to access free emotional and psychological support and information through phone support, counselling, complementary therapies, courses, classes, and online group activities. 

Following funding from the National Lottery in 2023, it was able to continue offering free hydrotherapy classes for its clients. The classes focus on gentle exercises to improve fitness, mobility, and mental health as well as provide pain relief. 

“We were already providing a lot of free classes – such as yoga and Pilates – and were interested in branching out into other therapies. We approached Kerry Sports Academy (at the Munster Technological University) about it and they loved the idea. The National Lottery funding in 2023 allowed us to provide five eight-week slots and it was a huge success. As soon as we launched it, people jumped at the chance to do it and some of the feedback has been incredible,” says Marisa Reidy of Recovery Haven Kerry.  

Adults of all ages on their cancer journey participated in the classes. One said it gave him “the confidence to get back to a more normal, active life”. Another said it was the best part of her week. “It put me in an amazing mental state. It was the best part of my week – the fun, the exercises, the friendship and the feeling of normality.” 

The centre is continuing with the hydrotherapy classes and between 12 – 14 people are benefiting from them each week.  

Recovery Haven Kerry also received Good Causes funding in 2019 and the centre was also a regional winner at the National Lottery Good Causes Awards in 2022.  

In 2019 additional funding was used to provide 100 free one-to-one counselling for adults and young people at the centre during 2020. These sessions were vital at a time when the country faced rigid Covid-19 restrictions which impacted hugely on vulnerable cancer patients and their families leading to an increase in demand for counselling. 

Located in Tralee, the centre services all of Kerry as well as North Cork and West Limerick and has an outreach service Killorglin twice a month. It was founded by former nurse Marian Barnes in 2009 who saw a need to support cancer patients and their families in a non-medical way, helping them with the emotional and psychological effects of the diagnosis.  

“A lot of people might think we are only providing services for people with cancer – but it is everyone affected by cancer– we are open to all family members and carers,” says Marisa.  

In fact, last year almost half of those who used Recovery Haven were either family members or carers. Throughout 2023, the centre had 5,248 attendances where 858 clients were supported. It saw 407 new clients last year – a five per cent increase on the year before.  

“We think this increase has a lot to do with people, post Covid, getting out and about again and it is great to see people willing to look for support. We held more than 1,023 counselling session, 1,050 support calls, 797 complimentary therapies sessions – from reflexology and reiki to massages as well as 408 play therapy sessions."

Recovery Haven has a full-time manager and client services co-ordinator, backed up by five part-time staff members, six therapists and seven counsellors. But its backbone is the 60–70 volunteers who support the centre, with a range of roles including ‘listening volunteers’ who support clients when they arrive and before they meet the clinical staff. 

“Volunteers also help with the day-to-day running of the centre as well as gardening and fundraising.  Many used the services themselves and have come back to give back, more have been touched by cancer in some way and others are locals. All are here for their own reasons but we couldn’t operate without them.”



Photo caption: Gardening group at the Recovery Haven Kerry pose for a snap mid-work. 

Recovery Haven Kerry is going from strength to strength following a massive renovation and extension of the centre last year which got rid of the need for an old prefab on site and now boasts new therapy and play therapy rooms in a state-of-the art building that promotes a relaxed and cosy atmosphere for attendees.   

It also has a range of new programmes starting this year from bereavement support for young people to online courses for caregivers and has announced renowned fashion designer Don O’Neill as its new patron.  

A former journalist with The Kerryman, Marisa was aware of the work of the centre through her job. When she took time away from journalism, she saw an opening for a part-time PR & Marketing role in 2017 and went for it. 

“When I came into the centre on the first day, I saw a framed newspaper article on the wall that I had written about the centre and I knew it was meant to be. I started off doing PR & Marketing but my role has branched out since then and I am also involved in fundraising.” 

The centre costs over €400,000 a year to run, with €200,000 of that coming from fundraising events alone.  

“It’s always challenging each year to fundraise. We just held a massive fashion show in Killarney on February 1 and it was a great success with around 1,200 people attending. Fundraising is a huge part of what we do and always challenging each year but the people of Kerry and the surrounding areas are amazing and we are constantly overwhelmed by the people and what they do for us.” 

Nearly 30 cent in every €1 spent on all National Lottery games goes back to Good Causes in the areas of sport, youth, health, welfare, education, arts, heritage, and the Irish Language. In total more than €6 Billion has been raised for Good Causes since the National Lottery was established 36 years ago. In 2022 alone, €259.5 Million was raised for local Good Causes in communities across Ireland.             

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