FAIRMONT — Rock Steady Boxing of North Central West Virginia is helping community members fight back against Parkinson’s disease while having fun. 

Co-owner of the North Central West Virginia affiliate of the Rock Steady Boxing, James Salai, said a main purpose of the program is give these people a life again.

For several class attendees Monday at the Fairmont Healthplex, this program has done just that for them in a rather short period of time.

One class attendee, Charles Serange, said he has seen progress in everyone in the class.

“I have seen progress in every person here,” he said. “You get out what you put in it, so it is up to you how much you want to do.”

In the two to three months he has been participating, Serange said he has seen an improvement in himself.

“I couldn’t even do one sit-up, and now I can do more,” he said. “This really is a good program because I have had Parkinson’s now for about four years, and when I go to the doctors they just ask if I am doing OK and send me home.”

Another participant, Jim Paugh, has been able to get out of his wheelchair and move around with a cane, Salai said.

“(The program) helps you feel better about yourself,” Paugh said. “It seems like it helps your stamina. I don’t get as tired as I used to and I can tell the difference.”

Paugh said is important to try hard at everything you do.

“Maybe you can’t do it the fastest, but you still have to try,” he said. “I am just not going to give up. If it gets the best of me, it does, but at least I know I tried.”

Joe Cocalis, a longterm Parkinson’s patient diagnosed in 2002, said the program has helped him quite a bit.

“I sware by this,” he said. “I am from Pennsylvania, and I drive 45 minutes to get here.”

Charles Snyder said the program has helped him to achieve more clarity in his speech.

Parkinson’s disease can happen to anyone at anytime and Dr. Mike Schroering was diagnosed with the disease.

“As you know, there is all kinds of levels here,” Schroering said. “Mainly my Parkinson’s has been a tremor in my right hand, and I spent a couple years trying to deny that I had it because as a physician you can play games with yourself. So finally I got three opinions and they all agreed that I had it. But I have been fortunate.”

Programs like this are able to slow down the progression of the disease.

“Nothing cures it,” Schroering said. “Many times people’s functioning improves a whole lot, and we have seen that with a number of people here.”

Paugh and Schroering said the program is not just work, it is fun. Paugh said he has made about 10 new friends at the class.

“The people are nice, the instructors are good, everyone seems to get along well and everybody seems to help one another,” Paugh said. “It has been very enjoyable.”

Schroering said it’s good camaraderie, and everybody supports one another.

“I think people have fun coming here which makes making the commitment to come out two or three times a week (easier) when you know that you are going to have fun and joke around with these people. We all know we have a problem, but we are going to put up a fight against it.”

He said the program encourages the attendees.

“You start slow, and nobody pushes people beyond the breaking point, and you have to decide how fast you want to go with it,” Schroering said. “They push you a little bit, but they are going to watch you, too, and if it gets to be too much they tell you to sit down.”

Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit gym founded in 2006 to provide physical exercise to people living with Parkinson’s. The North Central West Virginia program is an affiliation of the RSB.

Co-owner Nancy McKinley said the class is not a therapy program, it is an outside exercise program.

“It is a non-contact activity,” she added. “Everybody takes it at their level. Again we are working on balance. We are working on how to fall, because these guys are going to fall, and hopefully we give them some confidence on how to fall and how to get back up again.”

McKinley said Parkinson’s is a disconnect in the brain.

“Parkinson’s is kind of a disconnect in the brain between what your brain tells your body to do and your muscles being capable of following that,” she said. “So we try to recreate the pathways to get that accomplished. It turns out that high intensity, confusing, repetitive activities are pretty successful in creating that and boxing is kind of based off of all of those ideas.”

Salai said to take part in the class or to learn more about becoming involved call Salai at 304-365-0942. A prevaluation will be conducted for safety reasons before starting in the class.

Email Kelsie VanderWijst at kelsiev@timeswv.com.