Dwyer Program Chautauqua Holds Kick-Off Picnic For Local Veterans

The Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Program of Chautauqua County hosted a kick-off picnic for local veterans and their families at Bergman Park in Jamestown on Sunday. P-J photos by Gavin Paterniti

A local veterans service agency has taken its first step toward letting community veterans know that they’re not alone.

On Sunday, the county’s Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Program held a kick-off picnic at Bergman Park, where veterans and their families were invited to gather, meet and partake in a variety of activities, live music and refreshments.

The Dwyer Program, open to all veterans, works to establish a personal dialogue in a secure setting between those who have experienced struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. The program utilizes peer support from those who can relate to the struggles of transitioning into civilian life.

The program’s kick-off picnic provided a fun, family-friendly afternoon of cornhole, kickball, and music by local band TPT, while affording attendees the opportunity to learn more about upcoming events and peer-to-peer activities.

Cindy Reidy, project coordinator for the Dwyer Program in Chautauqua County, said events such as Sunday’s picnic are designed to help veterans converge in a safe, neutral and positive environment, and to discuss and participate in whatever they choose.

“This is a way to bring our vets together and to meet each other in a public space that isn’t just a bar somewhere, because not everybody wants to meet in a bar,” Reidy said. “We want to give our vets a chance to be themselves and do the things they want to do. They don’t have to share war stories if they don’t want to; but sometimes, especially for those who are struggling with PTSD, it’s nice to know that there are 11,000 other veterans in our area alone — many of whom understand and have shared experiences.”

Each veteran who attended Sunday’s event received a free T-shirt, and two tickets to Peek’n Peak’s aerial adventure course were given away as door prizes.

The Dwyer project is designed to be a non-clinical, veteran’s support program to pair veterans with other veterans by offering social events and other peer-to-peer activities. Initially established in Suffolk County, the Dwyer Program is assisting the lives of veterans in over 10 counties across New York state.

The program connects veterans through a variety of social activities, and part of the program’s approach is developing a team of mentors to work with veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The Dwyer Program is funded by a grant secured by New York State Sen. Cathy Young for the Chautauqua County Department of Veterans Services.

Area veterans interested in taking part in the Dwyer Program can contact Reidy in her office at 661-8447 for more information and to sign up for upcoming events.

The Veterans Services’ Jamestown office is located at 610 W. Third St. and can be reached at 661-8255. The Dunkirk office is located at 166 E. Fourth St. and can be reached at 368-6030.

More information is also available at “PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer to Peer program – Chautauqua” on Facebook.