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– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Fort Dodge’s Joe Fell trains at a recent Rock Steady boxing class at Friendship Haven.

More than 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.

Neurodegenerative movement disorder can lead to deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function, and there is no cure, which makes the fight to slow its progression a high priority for the patients.

Roger McCullough of Fort Dodge was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease four years ago.

“It’s something that doesn’t go away like that, and you have to try hard not to give ground,” McCollough said. “You have to move to stay mobile.

He regularly works out with a personal trainer to stay active and he joined the Rock Steady boxing class run at Friendship Haven for people with Parkinson’s disease.

– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Fort Dodge’s Doug Townsend works out with trainer Kourtney Condon during a recent Rock Steady boxing class at Friendship Haven.

Rock Steady Boxing is a fitness class aimed at improving the daily quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. It helps participants develop their power, strength, flexibility and speed.

Bringing Rock Steady Boxing to Friendship Haven was a vision for instructors Tori Johnson and Kourtney Condon.

“We went to training in January 2020, then the pandemic interrupted our plan”, Johnson, who is the director of wellness and therapy at Friendship Haven, explained.

Johnson and Condon were finally able to open the class last October. The class meets Mondays and Wednesdays at the Schmoker building on the Friendship Haven campus.

“I have a great passion for helping people with Parkinson’s disease,” says Johnson. “I have a good family friend who took a Rock Steady boxing class in Illinois, and that kind of sparked the interest in bringing him to Friendship Haven.”

– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Roger McCullough of Fort Dodge trains at a recent Rock Steady boxing class at Friendship Haven. McCullough was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease four years ago.

McCullough said the class was a workout for her body and brain with the exercises and activities the instructors lead. An activity consists of a series of colored papers taped to a wall with the numbers from one to 20 written on them, and the boxer is asked to do different exercises like hitting all odd numbers or hitting all numbers on green paper.

“It focuses on the ability to think of a number while counting steps, throwing punches,” he said.

McCullough said he thinks Rock Steady Boxing is a good resource for the Parkinson’s disease community.

“I encourage people to try the program from that perspective and give it time, because most of the time we’re looking for a quick result, and some of these things take months in the process,” he said.

“There is such a need for Parkinson’s disease programs and resources in our region,” Johnson added. “It brings that wellness to the whole body and encourages people to fight against Parkinson’s disease.”

– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Participants of the Rock Steady boxing class at Friendship Haven end each class with a huddle and by repeating their motto: “We are stronger than Parkinson’s disease.”

Each class begins with dynamic and static stretching before moving on to training. During the training they will focus on different areas like agility, balance, strength, hand-eye coordination and endurance.

“We always end on a high note with our applause at the end,” said Condon.

Watching the participants’ confidence and camaraderie grow over the past few months has been the best part for Condon.

“It’s really fun to see them as a group working together and encouraging each other,” she says. “They do such a good job of supporting each other and if one of them is having a bad day, they help each other out and let them know they’re not alone in this fight.”

Currently, the class has six participants, but Johnson and Condon hope to accommodate more boxers and add more classes in the future.

Those interested in the Rock Steady boxing class can call 515-573-6270 or email [email protected]


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