WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCBD) – Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year and more than ten million people worldwide are living with it.
There is no cure. But in West Ashley, there is a boxing-inspired fitness program designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s.
“It hurts like heck when you are doing it, but it’s great when you are done.”
The sentiment shared by Carl Munyon is the same as the dozens of others in this rock steady boxing program at Grit Box Fitness in West Ashley.
All the participants in this program have Parkinson’s disease. A progressive neurological disease for which there is no cure – it can’t be stopped – but it can be slowed down. That is where Cody Cooper comes in.
“(There are) 4,000 people in the Lowcountry with Parkinson’s that didn’t really have anything like this,” he said. “Medicine and science have shown that getting out and staying active and being more social really does help impact – in a very positive way – people with Parkinson’s.”
Cooper is the owner of this gym and started the program three and a half years ago. He says he learned at a young age the importance of helping others.
“One of the ways that I learned to give back when I was younger was my family, we worked with people with disabilities a lot and we ran a camp in the summertime. I knew once I opened my business that is something that I wanted to get back into my community.”
This rocky steady boxing program deals with hand-eye coordination… a lot of balance and stability. Many of the same things people suffering from Parkinson’s struggle with on a daily basis.
And besides the research backing him up, Cooper says he has seen the difference firsthand.
“That’s some of the biggest wins we see early on. People that are standing a little taller, smiling more, having more conversations, getting out and being social. Those are some of the things we see early on that ultimately lead to success in their progress,” he said.
“My husband had just turned 66 and he was moving like he was 90,” said Carla Harvey, who has seen the difference this program has made on her husband Jake.
“It’s just amazing. Instead of acting 90 he’s acting like he’s 70- he has dexterity in his hands, he can move quicker, he can do things now… it’s like I got my husband back,” she said.
Those words are why Cody Cooper continues to help others.
“When you can see that something is literally extending the life of somebody, or the happiness they can have with family, because of the disease they are suffering from – it’s a whole other level of how rewarding it really is.”
The program isn’t free but there is a scholarship program for people who can’t afford it.