(NewsNation) — Tate Wheeler of Title Boxing Club in Lakeville, Minnesota created a program with the goal of bringing light and life to those with Parkinson’s disease.
The program called Knockout Parkinson’s has transformed a local boxing club into a community for people fighting the disease one punch at a time.
“Our job and our mission here is to just speak belief in life and truth into people fighting a disease that they didn’t ask for,” Wheeler said during an appearance on “Morning in America.” “And our purpose is to bring them in every day and help them knock out Parkinson’s.”
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that impacts movement, and nearly one million people in the U.S. are affected by the disease, with over 10 million affected worldwide.
According to Wheeler, as Parkinson’s “tries to take away your movement, your fight, your voice, your spirit,” his program works to do the exact opposite.
“It’s big, it’s bold, it’s loud, it’s inspiring, it’s fun,” he said.
Boxing is proven to have significant benefits on Parkinson’s symptoms, with its high-intensity nature aiding in both slowing the progression of symptoms and increasing patients’ ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
“And we make them work hard,” he said as stretching and strengthening muscles and improving hand-eye coordination is an effective and important part of improving Parkinson’s symptoms.
Wheeler started the program 6 years ago, around the time studies started to show how boxing could help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
“I do not specifically have a family member battling the disease,” Wheeler said. “But six years later, I feel like I have lots of family members now.”
Wheeler forged partnerships with the local Parkinson’s Foundation and the APDA when the program launched and built relationships with physical therapists and neurologists in the area.
The program started with four members and now hosts 50 regular attendees across in-person and Zoom classes.
“We’re super blessed,” Wheeler said. “And now we serve a huge community of Parkinson’s crew that I consider our family.”
Before the eighth round of every class, each member gives the others fist bumps, which signifies that members are never fighting alone.
And after the eighth-round bell rings, the class does what is called “Victory Hands.”
“This means they raise both arms up because they won the fight that day,” Wheeler said. “By showing up and doing their best that victory is earned, not given.”
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month as Wheeler says his program is working to build awareness “throughout our club, throughout the community and throughout the world.”
“We want to make sure that people are aware of it, and that they don’t have to fight it alone,” Wheeler said. “We want them to know that there’s a community and a place for them to fight back together.”