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Fighting the good fight

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A southern Denton County man is stepping into the ring to knock out some of the effects of a progressive neurological disease.

In the fight against Parkinson’s disease, a fighter-based training/exercise routine is being individually modified for patients to work on their physical fitness, overall coordination, as well as develop a fighter’s “never give up, never give in” mentality. The program is named Punching Out Parkinson’s (POP).

Lantana resident Tim Runte is on the POP Steering Committee. He is also a participant, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.

“I first noticed a slight trembling in my right hand when it was on the steering wheel while I was driving, but it would disappear,” said Runte. “I thought it was just too much caffeine or that I was stressed. Then, it was my right arm up to my armpit and down my right leg to my foot; it happened pretty fast.”

Runte saw his primary care physician within three months of the onset of his symptoms. She did an MRI and then referred him to a neurologist who made the diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

“It was about six-months, all told, from noticing the tremors to the diagnosis,” said Runte. “I was just 43—on the young-side for the disease—and was working on my MBA from TCU; a lot to handle all at once.”

The neurologist started Runte on medication and he began educating himself on the specifics and intricacies of the neurological disease. He had not investigated any physical therapy options.

“My mother-in-law had showed me an article about the POP Program and the photo showed some older people in the gym,” said Runte. “I just didn’t think it would be something for me.”

Of course, the pairing of boxing and Parkinson’s naturally brings to mind one of the world’s most recognizable victims of the incurable, progressive disease—former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali. His fighter-mentality inspires others, including the 50,000 Parkinson’s victims living in the greater North Texas area.

“My leadership coach at TCU had a friend who was in the POP Program and he offered to have me go with him,” said Runte. “There are people of all ages who are in the program and the regimen has really made a difference.”

The program began September 2011 at Paulie “Two Time Boxing Champ” Ayala’s gym, “The University of Hard Knocks,” in Fort Worth. The therapy program consists of an intensive hour-long workout, two times a week. The routine is specifically tailored to each individual, based on his or her own personal limitations. It was initially funded by the American Parkinson’s Disease Association’s Dallas chapter, which closed in December 2012.

The POP members took over the program and have continued its growth. Members range in age from 40- to 80-years old. One long-term goal of the non-profit is to eventually have the POP program covered by healthcare plans as a therapy. Another long-term goal is to take this program and expand into other Texas cities and grow the POP community.

“To validate this claim, we are on the brink of launching a study with a Movement Disorder Specialist, Dr. Madhavi Thomas and her team of physical therapists,” said Tim’s wife, Dawn Runte. “The boxing regimen is more than ‘just another work-out routine.’ There are medical studies that attest to the benefits of strenuous exercise in regaining physical abilities lost due to the deterioration from the disease.”

Each member is issued a pair of boxing training gloves and hand wraps. Maximum participation numbers are determined on a per-session basis and driven by trainer and equipment availability. 

Currently, the program does not charge members for each session. Many are on fixed incomes and cannot afford the therapy. However, each member participates in raising funds. Every member on the POP Board of Directors is affected by the disease, either as a patient or relative of a patient. Additionally, POP has no paid employees; therefore, 100-percent of donations go toward the operation.

The 2014 POP Annual “Meet the Champions” Fundraiser is on Saturday, Jan. 25, at Lone Star Park. It will feature inspirational speakers and information about the program to the public.

“Punching Out Parkinson’s is committed in creating a comfortable environment where participants are positively encouraged to participate; both physically and socially,” says Runte. “One of the best things about the program is how it supports both the participants and the people who support them; the caregivers. It’s a place that the people who provide support for those of us with Parkinson’s get their own support.”

For further program information, sponsorship and donation opportunities, visit www.punchingoutparkinsons.com.

 

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