By Ellie Beatty

When my father-in-law, Bud (who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 20 years ago), and I attended our first Rock Steady Boxing South Shore class at 110 Fitness, I remember thinking, “These people understand.” In the Rock Steady Boxing South Shore program, all the boxers wrestle against a common foe: Parkinson’s Disease.

Soon after we arrived, Jim and Bob, two of the boxers, made a point of shaking Bud’s hand and talking with him. Bud, who is in a wheelchair, is often ignored or talked over. People with loved ones in wheelchairs have experienced this. Often, because of feeling uncomfortable or nervous, people in general have a hard time treating the wheelchair-bound as if their brains are working just because their bodies, obviously, are not. These Rock Steady boxers all have a solidarity based on the fact that they are united against Parkinson’s. They recognize and understand the symptoms and treat those fighting alongside them with respect and dignity.

The boxers and the “cornermen” who assist them look beyond mumbled communication, dyskinesia, awkward body movements, drooling, inability to follow directions, and many of the other disabling PD symptoms and welcome respect and love their fellow boxers. At the end of the class there is always time for pad work, in which each individual boxer hits the pads held up by Head Coach and 110 Fitness owner, Brett Miller. While this is happening the other boxers and cornermen cheer and encourage the boxer of the moment.

Each week boxers and cornermen together join in the call and response cheer:

We are?

Rock Steady!

What do we do?

Fight Fight Fight!