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Fort Drum family members make mindfulness jars, Worry Monsters, sensory bags and other stress relief items at the Family Advocacy Program’s inaugural Chillfest event Aug. 25 at LeRay Mansion. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Fort Drum families relax while enjoying
stress management activities at Chillfest

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 26, 2022) – There are many ways a person can relax, find calmness and unburden the mind. Dozens of Fort Drum family members sampled a variety of stress management activities Aug. 25 during the Family Advocacy Program’s inaugural Chillfest event at LeRay Mansion.

“The idea behind Chillfest is to have families come out and try a bunch of different things they can do to manage stress,” said Tom Wojcikowski, FAP educator. “They can make meditation bracelets or create a mindfulness jar, which can be very relaxing for people.”

A mindfulness jar – portable and filled with floating glitter – is supposed to have a calming effect, and it can be used by anyone feeling stress or anxiety. Attendees also could design their own Worry Monster.

“This is a fun craft where you make a monster face on a box, and there’s an opening for the mouth where you put your worries in,” Wojcikowski said. “Kids can write down anything that is worrying them, and then they put it in the Worry Monster’s mouth and their worries get eaten away.”

At the Exceptional Family Member Program booth, family members could try different sensory toys and games and learn about different EFMP events. This fall, a new Sensory Play Workshop is scheduled from 2 to 3 p.m. the first Friday of every month. For more information or to register, call (315) 772-0664.

Gavin Zimmerman, 14, volunteered at Chillfest to help community members make sensory bags, filled with colorful rice, beads and multi-shaped trinkets. The intent is to develop sense of touch and fine motor skills in young children as they move the different objects around the bag. For older children and adults, they can help alleviate anxiety or irritability – similar to fidget spinners – by providing a mindful activity.

“I used to have a sensory bag,” he said. “It’s a great way to keep you busy, calm you down and chill. That’s what Chillfest is all about.”

Zimmerman, a freshman at Indian River High School, has a different approach to dealing with stress.

“I like to listen to music,” he said. “That helps me relax. Whenever I get stressed from homework or something I have to do for Scouts, I will pop ear buds in, listen to music and it calms me down. I can walk away, take a breath and then re-assess the situation.”

Chillfest was originally slated for April 2020, but the spread of COVID-19 put a stop to public gatherings on post.

“We’ve just been waiting to do this ever since, and this finally felt like the right time,” Wojcikowski said. “Hopefully, people will find this helpful. In our stress and anger classes, we tell people to find what helps them de-stress. If your anger or stress level is really high, then find someone to talk to – maybe a chaplain or an MFLC (military and family life counselor) – and talk about those issues.”

The Fort Drum FAP staff has an event lined up next month to help students ease back into a new school year. A Bonfire Bonanza is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Oates Overview Lodge in Remington Park. Attendees can participate in games and crafts, make trail mix and s’mores, and tell campfire stories. For more information, call (315) 772-5914 or visit