Fighting Back: A boxer’s fight against something bigger than his opponent in the ring
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Dave Walker thought he had lost the fulfillment he once found while boxing. But then he had an unexpected conversation with a woman at the YMCA. “She asked if I ever wanted to coach boxing for Parkinson’s,” he remembers. He initially thought that type of job wouldn’t be for him, but then she told him to go home and watch a national story on the benefits of boxing for patients with Parkinson’s. He went home and watched. “After two minutes, I was hooked.”
Soon after that conversation, Dave and his wife Valeska brought a popular international program called Rock Steady Boxing to Garrett. Their gym on Randolph Street downtown has become a welcomed retreat for those who are battling the disease. “They feel empowered like they’re not a prisoner of this disease,” Walker says. “This is a punk disease. If it fights dirty we’re going to fight dirty back.”
Barbara Mettler has been fighting back since her diagnosis in 2014. “It felt good to know what was wrong with me because then I could look at what I could do to help myself,” she says. She was looking for a place to remain active when she returned to Fort Wayne. That’s when she found Rock Steady. “Dave is a great leader. He’s a good coach. He was a boxer so we trust him with that,” she says.
They build a lot of trust and friendships during these boxing classes, but as rewarding as their experience is, it can also prove to be tough. Walker says they’ve lost five people to the disease since they opened the gym four years ago. “They’ve all had boxing gloves at their funerals,” he says. “One had a boxing glove in their casket.”
Just recently their hearts broke with the death of Ray Ma Lee. “She was spunky as anyone in here,” Walker says. “She took a jab right at me and it was great.”
When you walk into the gym you’ll feel a strong sense of community. You can tell they’ve created a strong bond. A bond that was built while boxing, and based on a collective will to do whatever possible to keep fighting.
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