Frank, his wife and their two friends walked into my office and asked me if I had ever “heard of Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) and when was I going to start offering this program?” Frank was sitting across from me and every now and then I had to give him a gentle nudge to keep him seated in the upright position. Frank has Parkinson’s disease (PD) and I happen to be a director at the Randolph YMCA in New Jersey.
Ironically, just weeks before that my phone was lighting up like a Christmas tree because colleagues from all over the US were contacting me about the CBS coverage of Rock Steady Boxing and the fight against Parkinson’s disease. I happen to have a background in chronic disease rehabilitation and oddly enough, boxing. “This is right up your alley!” they said. Turns out they were right.
Here’s what I’ve learned: if you’ve see one person with Parkinson’s, you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s. We have been running our RSB site since September 2016 and we now work with over 40 boxers. Men and women of all ages and all stages of PD. Everyone is different and every day is different. Here’s what stays the same- they come into our boxing gym and pool and they fight. They fight for their lives. They fight for their wives, they fight for their husbands. They fight to keep their jobs, and they fight to keep the ability to care for their grandchildren. They fight for their independence. Having worked in a gym all of my life, I have seen strength. But never this kind of strength. These are some of the toughest people I know and I am inspired by them every day.
So, it was only logical that I would say yes when asked if I would be interested in representing Rock Steady at the first ever Movement and Exercise booth at this year’s Unity Walk. I went back to the boxers and asked them who was planning on going to the Walk. A few had been going for years and had established teams. We decided as a group that we would form a new team “The Randolph Y Wrecking Crew”. We chartered a bus and went into the city.
It was awesome! This group has become a second family, but doing the Walk together has made us even closer. We laughed and cried, met each other’s real family and boasted to them about our boxing prowess.
Walking in a crowd of over 10,000 people all supporting the same cause is a pretty powerful experience. Many on our team had never experienced anything like it before. It was inspirational, informational and educational. But also-it was fun!
As it turns out, we also performed on the Bandshell Stage to showcase what we do in class. I don’t think I have ever seen our boxers so psyched up! We were proud to perform and happy to show the countless others with this devastating disease that you don’t have to give up. You can fight.
We plan on making the Unity Walk a tradition for years to come.
Team Captain, Randolph Y Wrecking Crew