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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — People at the Jewish Community Center are sliding on their boxing gloves to fight back against Parkinson’s disease. 

Dawn Aronoff teaches the Rock Steady Boxing program at the center. She said the non-contact boxing program is designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their quality of life. 

“Rock Steady Boxing was designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s. The concept behind it is doing forced increased exercise helps them with their symptoms, and it helps them with the progression of the disease,” Aronoff said. 

Delbert Hopkins is a Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2018. He now attends the Rock Steady program 3-4 days a week. 

“When I finally found out I had it, I just wanted to find the best people we could find to help me get through,” Hopkins said. 

The class focuses on increasing mobility through boxing, stretching and physical therapy exercises. 

The Jewish Community Campus in Overland Park

Karen Gerhardt is a retired special education teacher from the Blue Valley School District. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2020 and started taking the Rock Steady class last month. Gerhardt said she likes that the program offers a workout to help improve her dexterity. 

“It’s good exercise. It really is. We had one the other day that was fine motor skills because you can’t button buttons and tie shoelaces, things that you learned when you were little, but you can’t do it now,” Gerhardt said. 

Aronoff said the class is open to people of all ages and any stage of Parkinson’s. 

“It’s not just about what can you do in class, but really about how it impacts you in your daily life,” Aronoff said.

For many people in the class, the program is about more than just getting in a good workout. When the gloves come off, it’s about having a community of people to go to for support.

“I felt like I’m the only person in the world who has this, so it’s good to see that other people were struggling, too,” Gerhardt said.

“You get a lot of friends you never knew you’d have. We’re all in the same boat,” Hopkin said. 

The Jewish Community Center will host a Parkinson’s Expo on April 23 from 9-11 a.m. Aronoff said the goal is to make the center a hub for Parkinson’s support in the area.

“We will be inviting some other organizations and programs in the area so that we can highlight Parkinson’s programming, not just ours but other things that are available in the community for support,”  Aronoff said. 

The Rock Steady Boxing program is available three days a week at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park as well as online via Zoom. You can find more information on classes and how to sign up here.