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'ROCK ON TOMMY' - Tommy O'Connor

Joining The King’s Regiment in Minden 1969 Tommy O’Connor quickly became a regular boxer in the regimental boxing team. Building up his reputation he subsequently became an army boxing coach. When his army career ended, he became a Prison Officer until his retirement. In 2013 Tommy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He found no local support to help him come to terms with the disease. Still being fit and active he wanted something to help him cope and remain as active as possible. Researching the internet he came across an organisation in Indianapolis called ‘Rock Steady Boxing’.

The aim of ‘Rock Steady Boxing’ is to provide fitness classes to enable Parkinson’s Disease sufferers to enhance their quality of life, build up stamina, strength and speed. By exercising with coaches who know the ropes and understand the disease, enabling sufferers to fight their way out of the corner, start to feel and function better. Tommy decided this was what he was looking for.

There being no financial help available he set about fundraising to pay for flights, accommodation, and the course. With family and friends rallying around the necessary money was raised. His friend, Kingsman Graham Walker, felt Tommy would need support so went with him, paying his own way, and subsequently also becoming a coach.

With qualifications gained now, he needed to look for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease in his hometown of Widnes and a gym to train them in. The local council provide one hour a week in a local sports hall. Finding many sufferers the club flourished and quickly grew (members are known as ‘boxers’). Raising funds by way of boxers paying a small subscription, fundraising and a Lottery Fund donation the club flourished.

Now in another gymnasium, Tommy runs six sessions a week, each session graded according to an individual boxer’s capability. Each session has a total of 10 to 20 boxers whose ages range from 41 to 85 years of age. An added bonus to these sessions is the help to overcome the loneliness boxers may feel and the friendship of being with like-minded people. He is helped by local volunteers and ex-army friends to ensure the individual safety of each boxer.

Each training session uses in-house gym equipment (punch bags and weights) plus purpose-made equipment purchased from monies raised by Tommy and his team. He has also made his own equipment which he uses for ‘dexterity’ training used to develop the use of hands and eyes coordination. Training plans are developed on an ongoing basis as he himself develops.

What makes Tommy O’Connor so special and worthy of our admiration is that he too is a sufferer and that he gives up so much of his time. His dedication and commitment ensure that so many boxers have a better quality of life. And there is nothing else like his club in England.

Tommy is looking into the future to expand what he does to reach out to more sufferers. He has a newly appointed Chairman who is a Parkinson’s clinician. He is looking for sponsorship and more fundraising to support a Rock Steady Boxing hub for all neurosurgical diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, MND etc.

There is a web page if any of the regimental family would like to make a donation, and find more information about Rock Steady Boxing, which is:-

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