Healing from PTSD one do-si-do at a time

Published: Feb. 11, 2016 at 10:02 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 29, 2016 at 3:21 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You could say it's the music, or the fancy footwork, that draws them in.

"The Serenade," Kenneth Frye lists. "Swing your partner."

"I never thought I'd learn to do-si-do," Ted Spencer laughed.

But Spencer and others have learned the square-dance move thanks to a local initiative called "Dancing Well: The Soldier Project." The goal of the program is to restore the well-being of veterans and families affected by Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and brain injury through community dance. Basically, they can tune out their battles by tuning into the beat.

Dancing Well's organizer, Deborah Denenfeld, said the idea started as a way to help improve soldiers' memories. She quickly realized it also lowered pain, reduced anxiety, reconnected bonds and got veterans active in the community.

"When I first came out here, I'd been isolated for quite a while," Spencer said.

Spencer, an Army Veteran with PTSD is working towards recovery one step at a time.

"I had a couple traumatic events happen while I was in the service and never really dealt with them," he said.

Spencer isn't alone.

"Sometimes I have nightmares, and then I have some medications (that) can trigger it too," Frye, a retired Army medic said.

Frye is battling a long list of ailments, from PTSD to cancer. But looking at him dance, you would never know.

"I usually don't go square dance, but then I said, 'You know, this is fun,'" he said.

Added Spencer: "I was here dancing three minutes and I had a great grin on my face and I looked around and the other vets were grinning, the volunteers were grinning."

It's even inspired one veteran to sign up as a volunteer.

"I know some of the things that help them and I hope I can incorporate it and help these people in that way too," Nathan Weston said.

After this go-around, Denenfeld hopes to turn things up again soon, as long as the veterans are willing to give it a chance.

"If the vets would do that, they would fall in love with it, just like I did," Spencer said.

The dancing is free for veterans and their families. The location is disclosed after speaking with an organizer.

Denenfeld is in need of donations to keep the program going. It costs about $5,000 to run each series, which includes 10 sessions.

You can visit www.dancingwell.org or their Facebook page.

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