MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — While most people swim away from stingrays, one Myrtle Beach veterans group swims with them to help with their PTSD.
It starts with the initial first steps in, and then come the stingrays — 80 of them to be exact. All of which live in a habitat at Ripley’s Aquarium.
“I love the animals coming up around and I tell people all the time, I think these stingrays have personalities,” said Margo Boyle, a Myrtle Beach veteran. “Some of them are friendly.”
The stingrays are safe, thanks to the team at the aquarium cutting their barbs. There’s a shallow end where people can feed and pet the stingrays and a deep section where people can put on a snorkel mask and look down several feet to see dozens of them.
“It takes all the thoughts, worries, and everything out of your mind that’s been going on consistently, but when you go out there, it’s like they disappear,” group member Randy Shaner said.
March will mark the fourth year that the Myrtle Beach PTSD group will have swam with the stingrays once a month.
“You come and you’re around other veterans experiencing the same things that you are and it’s encouraging that the aquarium does this for us,” Boyle said. “It’s encouraging to know there’s people that care.”
Shaner said it’s a great experience.
“It’s so great out there,” he said. “You go in another world, it’s peaceful. You leave everything back here including your troubles. It’s a nice escape.”
Shaner encourages veterans, first responders, and anyone with PTSD to try this. “It’s quite the stress reliever.”
Ripley’s Aquarium’s Director of Education, Michelle Barnhill said, “it is just a great experience for us. We definitely love doing it. We look forward to it every month, just to see the smiles and watch the vets actually relax and just enjoy the experience.”
For information on how to swim with the stingrays, visit the Ripley’s Aquarium website.