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Antique Boat Museum, River Hospital partner to highlight soldiers’ therapy progress

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CLAYTON — Rest and relaxation on the St. Lawrence River.

That is what active-duty soldiers will receive throughout the next few months thanks to a new partnership with the Antique Boat Museum and River Hospital, Alexandria Bay. The hospital is home to an intensive outpatient therapy program for soldiers who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s that sense of freedom. You know you’re surrounded by water and no one can get you,” said Michael J. Folsom, museum spokesman.

The therapy program, River Community Wellness, provides group and individual counseling, yoga and Pilates, and art therapy. All therapy methods focus on helping active duty personnel work through symptoms of PTSD, such as hyper vigilance, isolation and feelings of anxiety. Through various therapy avenues, soldiers learn coping mechanisms.

Meditation and relaxation is a part of that, and that’s where the boat museum comes in.

“Since it’s inception, we try to utilize the healing power and beauty of the St. Lawrence River,” said Bradley Frey, program director.

Mr. Folsom said the museum’s 30 captains and crew are excited to be a part of soldiers’ therapeutic process, as they will take them out on hour-long rides in replica antique boats and show them historical and environmental landmarks along the river and the areas’s many islands.

Capt. David Dodge, whose son is a Ranger, said he feels honored to be a small part of rebuilding soldiers’ life.

“I jumped at the chance,” he said. “I’m very excited to do something for our military folks. This is the support they need now.”

As soldiers cruise the river this spring and summer, they will see Grindstone, Round, Little Round, Rock, and Wellesley islands, among many other islands in the region.

Museum Executive Director Frederick H. “Fritz” Hager said the partnership is just one of many ways the boat museum will give back to the Fort Drum community. The partnership also will display artwork done by program participants in the agency’s Haxall Building through early fall.

“It does two things: it (shows) the soldiers going through hardships and educates the community about those hardships,” Mr. Hager said.

Displayed in a glass case are poetry and song lyrics, one of which begins with “You’ve dug your own hole and made it our wound.” A black and white skull and cross bones painting is partially masked with yellow paint splatter, and one mask appears to be painted to look like bloody flesh wounds.

River Hospital Executive Director Ben Moore III said the exposure the program will get at the museum will “help us promote awareness for PTSD.”

Mr. Frey said program participants were so thrilled to have their artwork showcased that some created new projects for the display. The exhibit, Mr. Folsom said, also will expand in the near future.

The program has grown from 10 soldiers in 2013 to 30 today.

The Antique Boat Museum has supported military personnel for years through participation as a Blue Star Museum, an effort through which free admission is offered to active duty military personnel. River Hospital will serve as the museum’s Armed Forces sponsor for the 2014 season, underwriting those admission fees. River Hospital also will underwrite fees for active and retired military personnel for the museum’s 50th annual Antique Boat Show Aug. 1 to 3.

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