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Apr 24, 2018 4:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Enders Battle Parkinson's With Boxing Gloves

Bonnie Katz works with Antoine Waldo during Rock Steady Boxing at Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor.  DANA SHAW
Apr 24, 2018 4:35 PM

Bonnie Katz has traded in her tennis racket for a pair of boxing gloves. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nearly seven years ago, the East Hampton resident, who played tennis for many years prior to her diagnosis, was forced to give it up. “Gradually I couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.

If you had asked her two years ago if she would be boxing instead, she says the answer would have been “absolutely not.”

But on Tuesday, April 17, that’s exactly what she did.

Ms. Katz, 70, is one of several dozen East End residents who are living with Parkinson’s and partaking in Rock Steady Boxing—one of several programs offered through Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease, which opened in September 2017.

Ms. Katz wore a red Rock Steady Boxing shirt last week, bringing out the red highlights in her hair. She has been sparring since October, when her physical therapist, Denise Cavaliero of East End Physical Therapy in East Hampton, recommended it.

Ms. Katz admitted that she was a little hesitant at first, but after day one, she was hooked. Since then, she has watched the monthly program grow from only five boxers, all of whom are still boxing today, to as many as 40 today. Rock Steady Boxing is offered at Epic Martial Arts in Sag Harbor and the Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute in Hampton Bays.

Sarah Cohen is the program manager for the hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease. “It took off really quickly,” she said last week. “It’s fun to be here. They’re not patients, and that’s a wonderful feeling.”

Other services for participants include yoga, singing with Valerie diLorenzo at the Southampton Arts Center, and painting classes at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. All are sponsored and paid for by the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, and are designed to get patients out of the house and active.

“I can’t say enough about it,” Ms. Katz said, fiddling with her hand wraps at Epic Martial Arts last week. “I feel more alive.”

“It’s uplifting the spirit,” added Michelle Del Giorno, who is a Rock Steady Boxing coach and owner of Epic Martial Arts. “It helps build your confidence in a time that you can feel low.”

On April 17, Ms. Cohen joined Ms. Del Giorno and Ms. Katz at the Main Street dojo to explain the importance of daily exercise for those suffering from Parkinson’s—a chronic and progressive movement disorder that affects more than one million people in the United States, according to the APDA.

Exercise helps improve a patient’s cognitive function, memory, and in some cases may even delay disease progression, Ms. Cohen said. “It’s really amazing.”

“It’s really something that has done wonders for me,” Ms. Katz added, minutes before taking to the mat to begin Ms. Del Giorno’s plan of the week, or #POW—the theme of the workout, which can range from footwork to defensive movement. “After I leave I feel rejuvenated—I feel like a different person.”

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What a wonderful program. So proud of our Sarah Cohen for bringing this forward!
By Robert I Ross (247), Hampton Bays on Apr 28, 18 10:36 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser