Boxing program helps Parkinson’s patients fight off disease

BRANFORD -- Michelle Hespeler knows something about putting up a fight, it's become an integral part of her life. A wife, mother of two, and physical education teacher, Hespeler, 49, has been fighting the effects of Parkinson's Disease since her diagnosis about a decade ago.

In her battle against debilitating disease, Hespeler began a boxing program for Parkinson's patients called "Beat Parkinson's Today."

"It's very focused on explosiveness, and balance, posture and gait," Hespeler said at a recent class at Studio One in Branford.

Between reps of uppercuts and jabs to the heavy bag, the class serves as a support group to patients fighting the effects.

"It's amazing, it's given me back hope," said Lisa Dolishny, of Branford, who was diagnosed three years ago at age 40. "I no longer feel like I'm alone, and it's helped with slowing down the progression."

"It's a tremendous support group," said Tom Black, 74, from Guilford.

Hespeler said Beat Parkinson's Today now has about 140 people battling the disease working out in the various classes they offer.

"Every time a new person calls I'm sad that there is another person with Parkinson's Disease," Hespeler said. "But I'm happy that I know I can help that person."

Aside from Branford, the classes are offered in GlastonburyOld Saybrook, Marlborough, New Britain, New Milford, and Enfield.

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