This is the first story within a four-part blog series highlighting the impact Rock Steady Boxing has on both Parkinson’s patients and coaches.
Rock Steady Boxing is a specialized program that enables individuals with Parkinson’s to fight their disease by providing non-contact, boxing-style fitness programs that are designed to improve their quality of life, sense of efficacy and self-worth. Through this program, which focuses on strength, balance, and reaction time, people can experience greater well-being in their day-to-day lives. This is the story of how Rock Steady Boxing, Inc. became an affiliate program of communities managed by The Goodman Group.
Rock Steady Boxing Program Director Leah E.
How Leah E. ended up getting involved with Parkinson’s and Rock Steady Boxing is not your typical “job search” story. In fact, you could say that Leah didn’t find Rock Steady Boxing, but Rock Steady Boxing found her. Surprisingly, Leah was originally hired to be a member of the marketing department at The Palms of Largo many years back. Equipped with a strong background in sales, she knew nothing about Parkinson’s.
Leah said, “I started a stroke support group here at The Palms of Largo and at the same time they had a Parkinson's support group. While I grew the stroke support group, the Parkinson's support group was suffering.”
Other team members noticed what a good job Leah was doing with the stroke support group and urged her to take on the Parkinson’s group as well.
She thought to herself, “I don't know anything about Parkinson's. How am I supposed to do this? This isn't my background.”
Her colleagues assured her that she would be great, and with a bit of hesitation, she took it over. “That was probably ten years ago,” said Leah.
Gradually Leah grew the Parkinson’s group by creating deep personal connections with the boxers while learning their stories and how Parkinson’s disease affected their lives. It all snowballed from there. Leah oversees multiple programs that include support groups, seated stretching classes, and the “Tremble Clefs”–a singing choir to help Parkinson's patients–and of course, Rock Steady Boxing. The Palms of Largo now offers a full suite of Parkinson’s programming, all run and led by Leah, the program director for Rock Steady Boxing and the Tremble Clefs, and the facilitator for Parkinson’s support groups at The Palms of Largo in Largo, FL.
She was the catalyst for bringing Rock Steady Boxing to The Palms of Largo after learning about the program from two regular attendees of her Parkinson’s support group. Upon hearing of the program, Leah said, “I absolutely believed in their mission and the Rock Steady Boxing method and wanted to share it with as many people as possible.”
She brought up the idea of implementing the program to John Goodman, The Goodman Group’s former chairman, who also knew of a resident who participated in the Rock Steady Boxing program in Indianapolis.
“Rock Steady Boxing is designed specifically for Parkinson's patients,” Leah explained. “It helps with hand-eye coordination. It helps with cognition. It helps with your mood. It's been found to be neuronally protective," Leah said. "It really works on challenging them, and forced, intense exercise is what they need to help combat their Parkinson's symptoms."
From there a plan was put into action and The Palms of Largo became the first Rock Steady Boxing affiliate in Florida, as well as the first community managed by The Goodman Group to offer the program.
She shared that the program, “...changed my life. In every aspect. It's given me a new career. It's given me a new purpose. It's given me hope.”
Coach of the Year
In 2022, Leah was named the Rock Steady Boxing Affiliate Coach of the Year. To date, there are 1,100 affiliates and over 3,500 coaches around the world. “I'm humbled and honored to have been named Affiliate Coach of the Year for Rock Steady Boxing,” remarked Leah.
Her instruction of individuals with Parkinson’s disease has positively impacted their quality of life, sense of efficacy, and self-worth. “It's my life's mission to try to have a positive impact on as many people fighting Parkinson's as I can through Rock Steady Boxing.”
“I love what I do every day and there are not many people who can say that. I come in and I can witness a miracle on any given day,” continues Leah. “I have had people over the years in wheelchairs get up and walk across the balance bars. Now it might take them five minutes, but the look on their face when they've been able to walk, when they've been stuck in a chair for a year or more–it's priceless.”
No question about it, Leah has certainly made a positive impact on the Parkinson’s community.
Leah’s passion for helping those with Parkinson’s reach their highest potential shines through in everything she does as a Rock Steady Boxing coach. Her dedication to her participants is evident in the life-changing results they experience. All those years back, no one would have thought the marketing hire would be an agent for change, helping countless people lead better lives through Rock Steady Boxing.