MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach teamed up with a local veterans group Wednesday to help people who suffer post traumatic stress disorder.
This particular type of therapy didn’t take place in a doctors office, but in a tank full of sharks and stingrays.
“You can sit in here and look at it from the outside, but until you actually get in there with the fish and the sharks and see everything glide by and you can touch them, it was incredible, it was an incredible feeling in that tank,” Lou Krieger with the Myrtle Beach PTSD group said.
Krieger came up with the idea for an alternative aquatic therapy program after seeing a similar one at the Georgia Aquarium back in 2008.
“I said Hey! That would be a good idea. We have an aquarium in Myrtle Beach, lets propose something to Ripleys Aquarium to see if they’d be open to having our veterans come in and do an alternative form of therapy and they welcomed us with open arms,” said Krieger.
Wednesday’s session was the first day of the free program which will be held the first and third Wednesday of every month.
“These gentleman have given so much to our country and for us to do something so small like this is an incredible feeling,” said Michelle Barnhill, Director of Safety and Special Projects at Ripley’s Aquarium.
The veterans who strapped on their snorkels for the first swim say being so close to the animals gets them in a whole new frame of mind.
“I came in here totally high anxiety this morning and I feel totally refreshed right now,” said Krieger.
The therapy sessions are held before the aquarium opens to offer as peaceful an experience as possible and allow veterans to immerse themselves inside an environment free of distractions.
“It’s just nice and calming and refreshing just watching the sharks and the rays and everything. It’s just a calming effect and it makes you feel good,” said US Marine Corp Veteran Frank Emerson.
Ripley’s Aquarium will offer the free therapy sessions twice a month for as many as six people at a time.