Packing a Punch Against Parkinson's

Packing a Punch Against Parkinson's

Packing a Punch Against Parkinson's
By Whitney Turek, Communications Specialist 

Cooperatives were built upon a foundation of seven principles. Of these principles, the most vital and well- recognized among member-owners is a cooperative’s concern for community.

Teri Rye, FEC member, participates in the Rock Steady class.

FreeState Electric Cooperative is dedicated to upholding those principles. One of our community-focused programs is Operation Round-Up. This program recently provided funding for a fitness program that is assisting the fight against Parkinson’s disease with ROCK STEADY BOXING.

In 2017, FreeState received an application through the Operation Round-Up Committee requesting a grant to help kick-start a community program that will help members of the community fight back against Parkinson’s disease through a wellness class known as Rock Steady Boxing, offered by McCrite Plaza Topeka.

“The Rock Steady Boxing class is made up of a variety of core and stretching exercises, boxing, and hand-eye coordination techniques,” said Christine Cunningham, McCrite Plaza wellness coordinator and certified Rock Steady Boxing coach. “Boxing is scientifically proven to help improve neurological symptoms of those with Parkinson’s.”

FreeState members participate in Operation Round-Up by rounding up their monthly bills to the nearest dollar. FreeState then takes the funds and distributes them in the communities we serve. FreeState was able to donate $2,500 to the Rock Steady program in 2017.

Cunningham said the grant made it possible for the program to relocate from McCrite Plaza to the Topeka Southwest YMCA. The award also assisted with Cunningham’s certification to lead Rock Steady Boxing, boxing gloves for program members and two standing punching bags for boxing exercises.

“The class takes place twice a week and is open to the McCrite Plaza residents as well as residents from surrounding communities,” Cunningham said. “Our members range in ages from 65 to 90 with various degrees of Parkinson’s. This class seems to help benefit them all.”

One McCrite Plaza resident, Don Campbell, says he feels participating in the class gives him the chance to take control of his Parkinson’s and do something more to improve his symptoms.

“The whole concept and idea of the Rock Steady class are incredibly beneficial. Having nothing to go on at the start of my Parkinson’s to having this come up and getting involved has been quite the experience. So far, it has helped my voice control, attitude, stamina, and coordination.”

Campbell said a significant factor contributing to the success of the class is a positive mental attitude. Each week brings new exercises, stretches and movements to challenge students and keep the course exciting. While the Rock Steady participants battle Parkison’s, each tries to keep a positive outlook on their disease.

“There will be a lot of days when you don’t want to go or participate, but you have to push through a little harder. The payoff is worth it,” Campbell said.

Cunningham said she could easily see the progress Campbell and other class participants are making with each class.

“With Don (Campbell), he came to the first class a bit reserved. After just one week, I began noticing him open up and gain confidence in himself—and he is just one example.”

Don Campbell (left) and Joe Heinen (right) 

Other Rock Steady participants agreed and said this class had helped them in more ways than just reducing their Parkinson’s symptoms. Even though the course primarily consists of exercises, it also came with a support aspect due to all of the participants fighting against the same disease. They understand the challenges one another face every day.

While the class focuses on overall wellness and boxing, each week brings new exercises, stretches and movements to challenge students and keep the class exciting. While the Rock Steady participants battle Parkison’s, each tries to keep a positive outlook on their disease

“Everyone is dealt a hand,” said Joe Heinen, FreeState member of Valley Falls. “It is what you do to overcome your obstacles that matters.”

Cunningham said her future goals for the program include certifications of another Rock Steady Boxing coach and increasing awareness of this opportunity to surrounding community members battling Parkinson’s.

Interested participants can call the Topeka Southwest YMCA, and they will be directed to an assessment coach and, if eligible, can begin participating in the class.

FreeState’s assistance in this program would not have been possible without the generosity of our members and their participation in Operation Round- Up. Spare change is creating significant change for the betterment of our communities.

Operation Round-Up is voluntary, and members can choose to opt-out of the program by calling our office at 800-794-1989. To view other organizations FreeState has helped through Operation Round-Up, visit

Check out a photo gallery from one of the classes! 

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