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Retired firefighter and his family hope to start a first-responders retreat in the NorthwoodsSubmitted: 08/11/2017
Katie Leszcynski
Katie Leszcynski
Sports Reporter/Anchor
kleszcynski@wjfw.com

Retired firefighter and his family hope to start a first-responders retreat in the Northwoods
MINOCQUA - Seeing fire, death, and destruction over and over can stay with you for a long time.

Sometimes, those images and feelings never go away. 

Joe Batholomew can't forget one of the worst fires he saw over his 33 years as a firefighter in Illinois. 

"The fire was on top of us and I told my guys that it was time for us to get out," said Bartholomew.

He made it out physically okay, but he started feeling off after that day in 2004.

"They said it was natural, so I blew it off and said, 'Okay' and thought there was no problem," Bartholomew said.


But there was a problem. Bartholomew kept having mood swings, anger issues and nightmares.

"We were in a car wash and when the soap came and covered the windows, all of a sudden, his arms stiffened like two-by-fours, and I looked over and I asked him what was wrong and again, all of a sudden, he said he thought he went back to that fire," said Joe's wife, Liz.

Joe was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.

The Bartholomews know they aren't the only family dealing with PTSD. After moving to Sugar Camp in 2012, they decided to start a first-responders' retreat in Minocqua so that anyone dealing with PTSD can come find help.

"When we moved up here and I saw how Joe was healing, I thought, 'Boy, we should be able to offer that to other people," Liz said.

They have a property in mind where they hope to build the retreat, and now they need help with donations.

Joe says that getting out of a big city where there are more noises, sights, and smells that can trigger his PTSD helped him, and he thinks it can help others.

"The biggest thing is being able to talk to people who have been through the same things you have. To know you're not alone," said Joe.

The Bartholomews started a non-profit and hope to start the first-responders' retreat as soon as possible. If you would like to help them with donations and learn more about the retreat, follow the link below.


Related Weblinks:
First Responders Retreat

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 08/18/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:


We take our Long Summer Weekend to Vilas County where we show you a garden in Land O'Lakes overflowing with produce - and a strong sense of community.

We talk to participants and organizers of the National Championship Musky Open in Eagle River.

And Friday Night Blitz kicks off another season tonight at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10 with football scores from high school games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following games:

Superior at Merrill

Berlin at Antigo

Hayward at Lakeland

Abbotsford at Crandon


That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.

We'll bring you all this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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VILAS COUNTY - Vilas County prides itself on its miles of trails. Whether it's cross country skiing, walking or biking, there are plenty of options. But one of the longest is the Heart of Vilas County bike system.

"We have 47 miles of paved bike trails. I don't think that any place in the state can match that, it's awesome," said Mary Vangrinsven.

Those nearly 50 miles make up the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail.

"It's like being on vacation every day of my life," said Vangrinsven.

When the trail started nearly 20 years ago, bikers, walkers and runners were very excited.
"I was pretty amazed by how much use it was getting. I wondered if this was just a fad or whether it was something real," said Vangrinsven.

But it was real. The finished trail goes through four different communities.

"It's been a great addition to what you can do in Vilas County," said Ken Wiesner.

Bikers can go from St. Germain to Manitowish Waters and hit up Sayner and Boulder Junction along the way.

"In my opinion, it's really changed the local economy for the better," said Wiesner.

Every Wednesday, a group of nearly 50 people bike along a part of the Heart of Vilas County Bike trail.

"I think we're really finding, especially in the areas up here, that we have very active adults," said Vangrinsven.

Wiesner and his wife Barb joined the group because they have a cabin in Vilas County.

"We've made a lot of new friends over the past 10 years, primarily in the biking," said Wiesner.

Whether you do it with a group of friends, or by yourself, there's also something to enjoy along the trail.

There are shops along the trail to rent bikes if you don't have one. If you would like more information on the trail, click on the link below.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - Northwoods tourism thrives off of fishing, hunting, and lake life.

Sometimes, people want to take a piece of that Northwoods culture home with them.

You might not recognize this sign in its beginning stages.

Mike Patek makes these handmade signs under the name "Vintage Cabin Signs" in Manitowish Waters. He controls everything from the cut to the paint.

His signs go all over the country. They're based off of Northwoods vacation images from the 30s and 40s; think old fishing magazines, travel posters, and postcards.

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MANITOWISH WATERS - Manitowish Waters would certainly look different today without its cranberry marshes.

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SHAWANO COUNTY - One person died when an explosion leveled a home in Shawano county early Thursday morning.

The Shawano County Sheriff's Department says 54 year old Diane Pickett was found dead in the remains of the house.

A second person who lived at the house was out of town when the explosion happened.

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MADISON - Update:  8/18/17,  5:10pm

The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a $3 billion tax break package for Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group.

The bipartisan vote Thursday now sends the bill to the Senate, where it must also pass in identical form before it goes to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

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EAGLE RIVER - About 1,300 people will attempt to snag the biggest Musky during a long-standing tournament in Vilas County this weekend.

"When you go on the water and see all these yellow hats you'll know the tournaments on," said Wisconsin Musky Clubs Alliance Secretary Donald Gilbert.

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