Packing a punch against Parkinson’s

Rock Steady Boxing program coming to Weirton starting Oct. 16

READY TO START — The Rev. Holley Faulkner Jr. is bringing Rock Steady Boxing to the area, with classes set to begin Oct. 16 at the Millsop Community Center in Weirton. Developed in 2006, Rock Steady Boxing is an exercise program aimed specifically at people with Parkinson’s disease. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — It’s estimated that as many as 1 million people in the United States live with Parkinson’s disease.

The chronic and progressive movement disorder affects a person’s motor skills, causing tremors, muscle rigidity, slowness of movement and postural instability, along with other symptoms that can vary from person to person.

The cause is unknown, and there currently is no cure.

Some programs and treatments, however, have been developed over the years to assist in alleviating the symptoms, and one such program soon will be available in the Ohio Valley.

Rock Steady Boxing was founded in Indianapolis in 2006, specifically to provide a form of exercise to people living with Parkinson’s.

Beginning Oct. 16, the Millsop Community Center in Weirton will join the more than 450 locations to offer the program.

It is being made possible through the efforts of the Rev. Holley Faulkner Jr., minister at Weirton Heights Memorial Baptist Church, who was introduced to the program while living in Fairmont.

After moving to Weirton 15 months ago, he thought Rock Steady Boxing may serve a need in the community and began working with officials at the Millsop Center to make it possible.

“There’s not another Rock Steady Boxing within half an hour of here,” Faulkner said, explaining the closest one he knows of is east of Pittsburgh.

Fundraising currently is taking place, with a goal of $3,000 to purchase equipment for the program, which will be offered through one-hour classes, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday.

The cost of the classes will be $30 per month for community center members, and $60 per month for non-members.

Faulkner explained the name comes from the founder Scott C. Newman, a former county prosecutor in Indiana, who is living with Parkinson’s. After beginning one-on-one boxing training a few years after his diagnosis, he noticed improvement in his daily functionality and a decrease in his physical tremors.

“It’s a non-contact boxing class,” Faulkner explained, noting he and other instructors will use focus mitts for the students to punch, along with the use of heavy bags and speed bags.

Calisthenics, circuit weight training and other exercises also will be used.

“We work on range of motion, flexibility. We focus on walking skills,” Faulkner said. “This program has shown sometimes dramatic results in alleviating symptoms.”

While all participants will take part in the same classes to start, Faulkner said eventually programs can be developed for each student based on his or her needs. He noted, in addition to the physical exercise, Rock Steady Boxing provides a sense of community and support for those with Parkinson’s.

Faulkner said he also is looking for volunteers to assist with the program, and a training session for those interested will be held 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday.

“The volunteers basically act as cheerleaders and encouragers,” he said.

An open house for Rock Steady Boxing will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 15, providing an opportunity to answer questions, showcase the program and pre-register anyone interested in participating. For information, contact the Millsop Community Center at (304) 797-8520 or e-mail

(Howell can be contacted at, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)