Camp Garagona – An Important Cause for Dr. Bill Barakett

Camp Garagona: An important cause for Dr. Bill Barakett

  • Sherbrooke Record
  • 24 Oct 2019

COURTESY    The splash pad at Garagona(photo)

Submitted by Ronald Creary, Executive Director of the Butters Foundation and Nick Brien, Executive Director of Camp Garagona

Camp Garagona is a community organisation for intellectually disabled people, nestled in the village of Frelighsburg and built in 1969 by community members including the legendary Montreal Canadiens defenseman, Doug Harvey. Garagona opened its doors in 1970 and provided summer camp experiences for anglophone & francophone campers for the next 40 years. With time the buildings started to show significant wear & tear. In 2012, having established the need for a major renovations project to modernize the facilities at camp, the board of directors at Garagona approached Dr. William Barakett and the Butters Foundation for help to raise the funds needed. The good doctor respondedpositively to the request since he fervently believed that families require respite and disabled people benefit greatly from stimulating camp experiences. The Butters Foundation’s involvement was a natural fit.

Dr. Barakett and his committee raised $2.5 million for a new pavilion that can house, feed, sleep and entertain over 70 campers at a time, year-round. This new building can accommodate up to ten campers with behavioural issues in individual rooms, people often excluded from camp experiences with serious consequences for the other members of the family. Garagona now offers a wide variety of services to intellectually disabled people and their families yearround as opposed to just in the summer. Dr. Barakett understood the importance of respite for families of disabled people since he was a family doctor and saw the consequences of a lack thereof.

At the inauguration of the new pavilion in September of 2016, it became obvious that the camp needed a new arts building as well. Dr. Barakett decided to take on the challenge and announced his intention to continue fundraising during his speech to donors and members of the Foundation at the inauguration. With the help of other campaign committee members, he successfully raised an additional $326,000 for a new arts center and an adjacent splash pad. The building was inaugurated on September 12th, 2019, two days before his funeral in Knowlton. It is named for Dr. Barakett who never saw the finished product that he worked so hard to build.

Dr. Bill Barakett’s family medical practice led him in all sorts of directions as he became aware of the consequences that certain illnesses and conditions have on otherfamily members. In the last years of his life, he was especially concerned with the impact that caring for a disabled child has on siblings who are often neglected due to the time-consuming challenges of caring for their disabled brother or sister. Respite for families and special programmes for siblings of disabled children became a priority for him. This was why Camp Garagona was so important to him.

Bill Barakett cared about the health of families. It was his life’s passion. Helping Camp Garagona was a manifestation of that concern and will be a lasting legacy for his patients, their families and the people around him.