Event Info > Bonander Award

The Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award

The Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award winner is nominated and voted on by a PUW committee, including prior Bonander recipients. It is awarded to an individual in recognition of their exemplary contribution to the Parkinson’s community.

Alan Bonander was a person with Parkinson's who selflessly devoted to his time to patient advocacy through research and direct interaction with physicians. He was a dedicated husband, Californian, support person, consultant, advocate, writer, Parkinson's medication information resource, Parkinson's patient, Palidotomy recipient, asthma sufferer and internet pioneer. This is just a hint of who Alan Bonander was until his untimely death in 1996.

Ross Bonander, Alan Bonander's son, reflects on the things that were important to his dad:  his family, hockey, and sharing PD info.

Congratulations to Rock Steady Boxing, recipient of the 2016 Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award

Rock Steady Boxing – Fighting Back Against Parkinson’s Disease

Rock Steady Boxing (RSB), a 501(C) 3 nonprofit organization founded in Indianapolis in 2006, gives hope to people with Parkinson’s disease by improving their quality of life through a non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness curriculum.

In 2006, former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He experienced a rapid progression of symptoms, including tremors, rigidity and a loss of some functions.  A friend taught him to box, and he quickly saw his symptoms decrease.  After only a few weeks, he stretched out his arms and said, “Look, I’m Rock Steady,” and Rock Steady Boxing was born.

In the U.S., approximately 1 million people have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and 60,000 more are diagnosed each year. National Parkinson’s organizations continue to invest in research to find a cause and a cure. While we are all looking forward to that day, Rock Steady Boxing is helping improve the quality of life of those living with Parkinson’s today.

Rock Steady Boxing helps people maintain their physical independence, improve their quality of life and restore confidence and dignity while we wait for a cure. RSB empowers people with Parkinson’s to “fight back” figuratively and literally.

Professional boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents. At RSB, Parkinson’s is the opponent.
Researchers at institutions such as the University of Indianapolis and the Cleveland Clinic have validated physical and neurological improvement in Parkinson’s patients participating in intense, forced workouts.  Studies have shown that those participating in the RSB program can see delay, reversal and/or reduction in symptoms.

Getting the right kind of exercise is part of the battle, but equally important are the social and emotional benefits people gain from Rock Steady as shared in these testimonial excerpts:

Each month at the Indianapolis RSB gym, more than 200 people participate in boxing-inspired exercises. Exercises vary depending upon the individual’s fitness and progression of symptoms.  Seventeen classes at four levels are offered each week.

Today, there are 93 Rock Steady Boxing affiliate locations in 28 states and two international locations serving thousands of people. In 2016, 300 people will attend seminars in Indianapolis and return to their home communities to replicate the program to serve thousands more.
Rock Steady Boxing is living its battle cry: “In this corner: Hope.”

                  Alan Bonander Award Presentation - 4/23/16  Evelyn Bonander

I am thrilled to present the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award to Rock Steady Boxing – yes, boxing for persons with Parkinson Disease.  

When Carol Walton called me and named the winner, I had her repeat it several times. Boxing?  Isn't that one way you can get Parkinsons?  Yes, but RSB is non-contact boxing.  You do not fight another person, you fight the disease in the form of a punching bag.

Founded in 2006 by Scott Newman, who, diagnosed with PD at age 40 was experiencing rapid symptom progression.  A friend, wanting to help, taught him to box.  And he felt better – one day saying: Look, I'm Rock Steady!  So with a donated ring in an old boxing gym, RSB began.

What is RSB?  It is intense “forced “exercise;  it is symptom-based exercise like shouting to counteract the soft voice, punching to steady a tremor, sparing to increase corrdination, footwork to enhance balance. In addition there are now some 20 more symptom-based exercises.  It is an ardous workout during which you train every part of your body and brain. You work with a coach and in a class. For up to 90 minutes.  

It engages men and women; newly diagnosed and those living with PD for years; ages 30 to more than 90.  Taught by persons who have been through a three day training course in the methods of RSB, it is exclusively for persons with Parkinsons.

And what happens: symptoms abate or disappear, balance improves, walking becomes possible again, shaking lessens.   And the research is showing that this intense, forced exercice is “neuro-protective” - enhancing dopamine in the brain, actually slowing disease progression. No, it is not a cure.  But it honors the body –  finding hidden reserves of strength and stamina, control and confidence, even joy. Along with camaraderie!

Would Alan, my brother, a computer guy, have tried boxing?  He was a try-er --- one of the first to go to Sweden for a palidotomy; maybe the first to devise a way to liquify his daily medicine and, via a computer hidden in his fanny pack, infuse it directly into his intestine;  but boxing?   Yes, I can picture Alan, in the ring, punching, sweating profusely, and outside the ring, cheering on his fellow PD boxers.  Alan would have tried and become a boxer!

So today I am delighted and proud to present this award to Joyce Johnson, Executive Director of RSB.  Joyce is reposnsible for leading the growth of RSB from a few people in Indianapolis to a non-profit, which today has 150 affiliates in 38 states and is in Canada, Australia and Italy.  She told me last evening that yesterday there were 55 people in the training course in Indianapolis so more sites can be opened.

So with heartfelt thanks and on behalf of the PD community, I am so honored to present the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award to Joyce Johnson and Rock Steady Boxing!


Alan Bonander Acceptance Speech - 4/23/16  Joyce Johnson

Evelyn, Carol and the Alan Bonander Committee,

On behalf of our founder, Scott Newman, and the courageous boxers of Rock Steady Boxing who have been “fighting back against Parkinson’s,” I am humbled to accept the 2016 Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award.  

Alan was a person with Parkinson’s who selflessly devoted his time to improving the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, and as an advocate and a pioneer, he had much in common with the pioneers who started Rock Steady ten years ago.  I’ll bet Alan would have loved “fighting back” against Parkinson’s in his own boxing gloves.

I also especially want to thank our affiliate boxers from Rock Steady Boxing New England, and their fearless leader, Rich Gingras, for doing a wonderful, informative and fired-up demonstration to show you just what Rock Steady Boxing looks like… because it is a strange concept…

And it really was serendipitous…  An unlikely discovery with a truly beneficial outcome…

Who would have thought that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2006 would lead to a boxing-inspired therapy program that would change the lives of thousands of people with Parkinson’s.  But that’s exactly what happened…

Scott Newman, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 40, experienced a rapid progression of symptoms… and just to get moving, learned to box for the first time in his life, and he saw his symptoms decrease…  After only a few weeks, he stretched out his tremor-free arms and said, “Look, I’m Rock Steady,” and Rock Steady Boxing was born…

Researchers at institutions such as the University of Indianapolis and the Cleveland Clinic have validated physical and neurological improvement in patients with Parkinson’s participating in our intense, forced workouts. Studies have shown that RSB’s program delays, reverses and reduces symptoms.

According to ESPN, “boxing is the toughest, most demanding sport in the world.”

At Rock Steady, our boxers don’t fight for titles or belts – they fight for their lives and their opponent is Parkinson’s disease!

And as you saw in the demonstration, boxing is fun… it’s edgy… and it’s a whole lot cooler to tell your friends you are going to boxing than to therapy!  

At our headquarters in Indianapolis, we offer a Training Camp (That’s boxing lingo for “seminar”) to teach others to replicate the Rock Steady program in their own community.  This is a comprehensive two-day program that covers all the basics of why boxing is such a combatant to Parkinson’s disease.

Currently we have 150 affiliate programs in more than 30 states, several in Canada, and one each in Australia,  and Italy!     

But we dream of the day when there will be a RSB program in every community throughout the world – So that when the neurologist says… “You have Parkinson’s disease,” the next sentence will be, “and there’s a gym down the street where you can fight back.”

And that’s Rock Steady Boxing… We help people maintain their physical independence and restore their confidence and dignity – while we wait for a cure.  

We are truly grateful for this huge honor and the recognition that Rock Steady Boxing is in your corner, helping people with Parkinson’s “fight back.”

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