THOMASVILLE- The Thomasville YMCA is known for its variety of class offerings for every age. However, their newest program, Rock Steady Boxing, a program geared toward individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, is a win not only for the YMCA, but patients, their families, and practitioners.

Thomasville YMCA CEO Tom Everett explained that upon an individual’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s, their physician can then refer them for an assessment at the YMCA or Archbold.

“The assessment is really just a way to baseline somebody and see what their current balance, stability, and range of motion looks like,” Everett said. “What we want to see is those markers improve the more they come to the class. The assessment is just the starting point.”

At the assessment, patients are gifted a “swag bag” complete with boxing gloves to begin a new chapter in their physical fight against Parkinson’s.

Upon the completion of the assessment, individuals can begin attending the Rock Steady Boxing classes twice a week.

Currently, the class hosts patients of all skill levels. However, Everett has seen the class grow steadily since its inception in November. Because of this, Everett and his team are now looking to add a class that would be geared toward a higher skill level.

“As we see our numbers increase, we would like to have a Level 1 and Level 2 class,” he said. “We may end up progressing beyond that, but at least having a second level, so your higher functioning group is one class, while your other individuals who need a little more assistance can have a class with a more hands-on approach.”

Due to the current class hosting patients of all skill levels, family members and caretakers are often seen sitting on the sidelines or standing in the background, making sure their loved one finds their seat and is comfortable during the entire process.

With the classes being divided, family members would still be highly encouraged to attend, as the Level 1 class would be full of family members and volunteers, otherwise known as a “corner man” in Rock Steady Boxing.

“The role of that corner man becomes even more important as the disease continues to deteriorate the body,” Everett said.

Not only do participants have a corner man, but they are also joined in class by Archbold Occupational Therapist Molly Cone.

However, patients see Cone on the first Friday of every month, as she hosts a Parkinson’s Support Group for patients, caretakers, and family members at the YMCA from noon to 1 p.m.

“Every meeting, we try to have a guest speaker, whether that be a nutritionist, neurologist, or psychologist,” she said. “We’ve had someone from every medical aspect that can help with Parkinson’s and the mental health side to speak about what they can do for Parkinson’s patients.”

The support group aligns with Rock Steady Boxing, as clients have become familiar with Cone through the class and feel comfortable opening up to her about what they are dealing with daily.

Realizing their daily struggles, Cone has now considered starting an additional Parkinson’s class at the YMCA that would focus on day-to-day activities, including fall safety training, shuffling of the gait, doing dishes, and laundry.

According to both Cone and Everett, the class has been a blessing to patients and their families and they hope this new class would only continue to better the lives of the individuals they love to see.

“We had seen an increase in the number of Parkinson’s patients coming to the Y before this program ever started,” Everett said. “We knew there was this void in the community. It’s offered in Tallahassee, but we really felt like we could step in and meet their need without them having to travel.”

Despite a slow start, Everett believes the program will only continue to grow and looks forward to seeing the progression of all class participants.

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