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April 20, 2017 06:28 PM

Rock Steady Boosts Fighter Mentality In Parkinson's Patients

Muhammad Ali was known as "the champ" and arguably the greatest boxer of all time. He was also known for bringing awareness to Parkinson's Disease.  Ali's fighter mentality is now living on through Parkinson's patients right here in KELOLAND.

Boxing is one of the most demanding sports, attributed to some of the toughest athletes. Now, one gym here in Sioux Falls is giving a group of people their fight back," 

"With the support of my wife and kids, they are the ones who supported me through it," Parkinson's patient Meldon Kroeger said

Three years ago this month, Kroger was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"I come home from work and I was having a terrible day dealing with it, she put her arms around me and she said, 'We will get through this together' and I knew I could make it after that," Kroeger said
Parkinson's disease is an incurable disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often causing tremors. Kroeger says slowly he's lost his fine motor skills and is unable to do things most people take for granted, such as tying his own shoes or feeding himself. That's when he leans on his family for help.

"We'll be out eating and they'll see I am having trouble and he'll come over and say, 'Can I help you, papa?' And he'll feed me before he goes and gets stuff for himself," Kroeger said

At one point, Kroeger admits he felt defeated.  Today, though, he is fighting back against a disease he says has taken so much from him.

"At that time Parkinson's had me.  Now it's I have Parkinson's and it's in for a battle," Kroeger said.

"We are working on those forceful punches, we'll be using their voices," Rock Steady program director and head coach Lisa Howard said.  "We are working on footwork and the balance part."

Howard says working with Parkinson's patients has changed her life. She's excited to bring the first gym to Sioux Falls to help patients get their lives back.

"If you think of all the skills a boxer needs to be an ultimate fighter, they need balance and foot work and they need power. Mind and brain and hand-eye coordination and those are all things Parkinson's patients have problems with," Howard said.

Currently, there are more than 3,000 people with Parkinson's in South Dakota. There are 360 Rock Steady programs around the world. This will be the first in the state.

"Just countless stories of how Rock Steady has helped people and we are just excited to again get started and get our classes going," Howard said

And as the great Muhammad Ali said, "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something deep inside them."

Something this gym is helping patients like Kroeger hit back with.

Howard says Parkinson's patients interested in the Rock Steady program can make an appointment for a free assessment. Classes officially start next week.

For more information or to sign up for classes, call the Inn on Westport at (605) 362-1210. 

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