By Jeff Zimmerman
Former 2x world champion Paulie Ayala hosts his annual “Punching out Parkinson’s” fundraiser, Meet the Champs VI, Saturday, February 10th at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ayala has been a fighter his whole life and experienced what it was like to become a champion in the ring, not once, but twice. But what he is doing with his Punching out Parkinson’s program, using a non- contact boxing workout he designed, to help those inflicted with the dreaded disease of Parkinson’s and the impact he is making on them is something special.
“Of course, it feels good to help people, but I think that community that has evolved from this program is powerful as well. There is strength in numbers and I see this group care and support each other.”
The program, run out of his University of Hard Knocks Gym in Fort Worth, started modestly over five years ago with a few members and now has grown to around 100 members. The fact that the numbers keep rising is unfortunate and a sign that the disease is pervasive and has no cure. But at the same time, it makes Ayala’s program even more valuable as a place to better their day to day life and know they are not alone.
“The program is still going strong and continuing to grow. We now have 10 classes a week for Punching out Parkinson’s,” stated Ayala.
Last year, on the 5th year anniversary, Ayala brought in May May Ali, daughter of “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali, who shared amazing stories about her dad and his life with Parkinson’s. Ali was the face of Parkinson’s for many years before his death in 2016.
This year, the keynote speaker will be former NBA player Brian Grant. Grant was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease late in 2005 and publicized his disease four years later. Grant went on to create the Brian Grant Foundation to bring awareness to Parkinson’s. Grant is another example that Parkinson’s plays no favorites, even inflicting big, strong athletes like himself who was relatively young.
Ayala is excited to hear Grant’s story and how it could help his “fighters” which is the name he affectionately has for those that he helps in his program.
“I am most looking forward to Brian Grant’s story to inspire the POP group. Also, I hope that Brian Grant’s story will motivate people to continue to financially support the Punching out Parkinson’s program.”
Ayala added, “Without these events, we would not be able to keep the cost affordable and able to keep these classes private.”
There are still tickets left that include a VIP Meet and Greet with Grant, a reception and silent auction and seated dinner. Go to www.punchingoutparkinsons.org for more details or contact Jan Simus Events at 817-763-5087.