Each week volunteers gather at Lansing’s Crown Boxing Club to train people with Parkinson’s disease how to box.
Steve Robinson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago. Before that, he wasn’t much of an athlete, and boxing wasn’t a sport he would ever consider. Steve says, after his diagnosis, his priorities changed.
“It has made me a lot more balance-oriented. It improves your coordination and balance. It also improves your movement. You tend to get stiff with Parkinson’s disease. When I first started the class, I couldn’t get my right hand above my head. Now I can. It’s helped a lot.”
Steve belongs to “Gloved Ones,” a local chapter of the Rock Steady Boxing Organization. Rock Steady Boxing is a national organization educating people with Parkinson’s disease about the benefits of exercise, specifically boxing. The mission is to empower people with the disease to fight back.
Dr. Ron Horowitz, a founding member of Gloved Ones, is also a volunteer trainer. He says he has learned a lot about the brain by teaching boxing to Parkinson’s patients.
“The ability of the brain to change itself is a unique thing. I didn’t know anything about it before. They call it neuroplasticity. And it means the brain can create different pathways to complete an action. Think of a street that you consistently use for years. Suddenly the street develops a rut, or a break, or something happens to the street and you can’t use it anymore. The brain has the ability to create a new street, but you have to work at it. How much work you put in helps to develop that street.”
85-year-old Roberta Gubbins says boxing has made a huge difference in her life.
“When you use boxing exercises, it makes the mind and the muscle work together. If you are going to do a left jab, you have to think left arm and jab. That’s that part Parkinson’s works on. It destroys the connection between the mind and the muscle. This helps me. For me, it’s managed to keep it at bay. It’s still there but not as bad. My grandkids are your size, and they say, nana, you are doing what? I say I’m boxing. (laughing) and they love it.
Ted Zale is also a founding member of Gloved Ones and A volunteer trainer.
“My uncle Tony was middleweight champion back in the ‘40’s, 1940-1948. When I used to bring him down here and we would work out in the gym, I was surprised at how animated he became. I didn’t realize that doing some of the boxing exercises connected some of the neurons. I think about it now and if I would have been doing this with my uncle, he may have lasted a lot longer. He had Parkinson’s. We are keeping his legacy alive by doing this.”
Twice a week, for the last three years, Ron, Ted and Ted’s son Patrick volunteer their time helping people with Parkinson’s learn to box.
During the pandemic lockdown, when the gym was closed, they even created videos and put them online so the members would still have the opportunity to exercise.
Ted says he loves to spend time helping others, especially in a sport that means so much to him.
“Every workout session we leave here feeling better because we’ve been able to give them a little bit more and a little bit better life-style. Some of them have even begun driving again (Elijah cut out some here and fill with B-roll). That mobility, that balance, and the endurance they all have is heartwarming for us.”
Both Steve and Roberta say they are incredibly thankful for Ron, Ted and Patrick.
“It means a lot because I have been a volunteer all my life and I know how much time and effort that takes. For them, they have the training, and they learn different techniques to work on with us. Their service is really important.” Roberta says.
If you are interested in learning more about the Rock Steady Boxing program or becoming a volunteer at the Gloved Ones, you can reach out to Ted Zale by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting the Rock steady website at rocksteadyboxing.org
We want to say thank you to Ron, Ted and Patrick, the three volunteers of Gloved Ones. You are this week’s Good Neighbors.
Want to see all of our Good Neighbors segments, click here.
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