Dwyer Chautauqua Making Connections

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Veterans at the Sabres game

Article Contributed by

Heidi Woodard

Do you remember getting dressed up for a formal, prom, or even a wedding? Think back, do you remember spending the night with friends – eating, dancing, and laughing the night away? Well, at 5:00 p.m. on March 24, 2018 more than 120 Chautauqua County Veterans will be doing just that at the Dwyer Chautauqua’s “Dwyer Gala” (a military-style ball) at Moon Brook Country Club in Jamestown, NY.

Something Different

Cindy Reidy, Project Coordinator of Dwyer Chautauqua, came up with the idea to hold the Dwyer Gala in order to do something slightly different from last year’s outreach picnic. While the picnic had great success in attendance, the Gala will allow veterans (and their guests) to move around and interact naturally with the many people in attendance.

Veterans are encouraged to dress in uniform (or in semi-formal to formal attire), and enjoy the buffet dinner and sundae bar, all at no cost to them. A professional DJ and photographer will be on site. All Veterans are encouraged to attend the Gala or any of the many events the Dwyer Chautauqua program holds (even if you have never been to a Dwyer Chautauqua event before).

Free and Easy

The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran’s Peer to Peer Program’s goal is to link Veterans together for socialization and friendship.”* The program was created to serve the needs of Veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). The program (free to all Chautauqua County Veterans) focuses on linking Veterans with other area Veterans, allowing personal connections to form. These connections are the backbone that helps Veterans feel safe and connected to individuals who have similar experiences. Since the Dwyer Chautauqua program is a non-clinical program, Veterans have the ability to share their experiences with one another based on their individual comfortable level and ability to share.

The Dwyer Chautauqua program has become integral to many area Veterans’ lives. The program gives Veterans an outlet to meet others in an easy going, non-threatening atmosphere. One Veteran and his wife realized what a true blessing the program has been.

Personal Experience

Cindy received an email from a Veteran’s wife that stated: “Over the last four months that my husband and I have been involved [in the program] I have seen my husband make connections that I have not seen from him in nine years. I feel that he has found a place where his guard does not have to be at 110% and he can let it down a little. He looks forward to seeing his friends. And in the last nine years getting him to go to a social setting was like trying to disarm a bomb. I enjoy the fact that I can get out of the house for a few hours and be with other wives that understand what I go through living with a Veteran with PTSD.”

Fortunately, for area Veterans the Dwyer Chautauqua program has many opportunities each month for Veterans to get together in a laid-back social setting. The Veteran mentioned above has said, “Through the Dwyer program I have made friends that I would not have thought I would have. Those friendships have turned into brotherhoods because we talk to each other about our conditions and it’s not forced like it appears to be when you are in group counseling sessions. I have joined more community programs because we all do them together. There is no pressure from anyone to do better, or be better but to be who you are, and work within your means and not above them…”

No Pressure

The no pressure program offers coffee hours both in north county and in south county, card nights, game nights, camping, bowling, and Judo classes. The program has had successful outings on the Summer Wind, Escape Room, complete spa day, and a Sabres game. Cindy said the Sabres game was an incredible experience; the Veterans rode to the game together on a bus driven by a fellow Veteran and got to experience the game from the box seats. The box seats allowed thirty-five Veterans to experience a professional hockey game in a large arena without the some of the stressors that can make it difficult for Veterans with PTSD in large arenas.

The possibility of different events the program can hold is limited only to the imagination of the Veteran’s themselves. Project Coordinator, Cindy Reidy, said the program really captures the essence of what Veterans are interested in. The events the program holds are driven directly by desires and needs of the Veterans. The program is serious in its commitment to serving individuals involved in the program. If there is an interest in a certain activity, Dwyer Chautauqua will try to hold the event, the program truly values the needs and interests of the Veterans.

A Busy Season

Spring is a very busy season for the Dwyer Chautauqua program in addition to the Dwyer Gala in March, Jordan Brady of I Am Battle Comic will be at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, NY on April 14, 2018.

I AM BATTLE COMIC follows a group of comedians on a mission to provide laughter for U.S troops stationed in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bahrain. Gripping insights about the highs and lows facing the men and women in the military are balanced with wonderful laughs as the comedians perform, along with heartfelt interviews with top professional comedians.”* Any donations collected from I Am Battle Comic will benefit the United Veteran’s councils grave flag-stand project, dedicated to installing permanent flag holders at Chautauqua County Veterans’ graves.

Learn More

For more information on Dwyer Chautauqua program, or to view the Dwyer Program Activities Calendar please visit http://dwyerchautauqua.com/

For more information on the Dwyer Gala (or any of the program’s events) contact Cindy Reidy at 716-661-8447 or email Dwyerchautauqua@gmail.com The Dwyer Chautauqua office is located at 454 N. Work St. Falconer, NY 14733.

*Information from dwyerchautauqua.com