Heskett hosts club for those affected by Parkinson’s Disease


Baswanth Naidu/ The Sunflower

Angela Flaherty is a physical therapist at Club Parkinson’s. She is helping a club member with an exercise on Sept. 26 at the Heskett Center.

Parkinson’s Disease is expected to double by 2040. That’s why co-founder Connie Urbanek and her partner Shana Gatschet started Club Parkinson’s.

Club Parkinson’s is a wellness and therapeutic group for those who are diagnosed with the disease. Club Parkinson’s is staffed with licensed physical and occupational therapists and a psychologist. All therapists must be certified in Parkinson’s certified therapy — Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder that affects the central nervous system.

Urbanek who is a physical therapist assistant and Gatschet who is an occupational therapist came up with the idea to start Club Parkinson’s after attending a continuing education course and learning how common the disease is.

“It’s one of the largest cities (Wichita) in the state and there is really no resources for people with Parkinison’s, so that is really kind of the driving force behind that,” Urbanek said. “We wanted to prepare for these increased diagnoses and bridge that gap of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and living well throughout their whole entire Parkinson’s journey.”

Club Parkinson’s is located in the Heskett Center on the university’s campus. Urbanek said she knows John Lee, who is the director of recreation at the Heskett Center because their sons played baseball together.

Around the rise of COVID-19, the census at the Heskett Center was down, which allowed Club Parkinson’s to utilize the space.

“It’s been a huge asset for us because all the equipment we need is right here and if we didn’t have this opportunity to be here you know we would probably be fundraising to still try to open our own building somewhere,” Urbanek said.

Club Parkinson’s has access to the Heskett Center’s pool for water exercise and therapy, the F45 studio, Cybex weight and exercise machines, Nordic Walking sticks, exercise studios and more.

Dwight Roth who has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for 11 years was originally a member of Rock Steady Boxing which is a gym located on the South Side of Wichita. Rock Steady is dedicated to helping others with Parkinson’s too.

Roth said that Club Parkinson’s offers more of a variety of classes like speech and group therapy.

“I don’t know where I would be without them because I’m in a very stable home situation and so I don’t have problems there but these people make a difference because they are helping people like me (those with Parkinson’s Disease),” Roth said.

Monty McCoy said he enjoys being a member of Club Parkinson’s because of how much he has improved and getting to connect with those who are struggling with the same disease.

A couple of years ago I was getting around at night with a four wheeler and now I don’t even have it in the house unless I need it,” McCoy said.

Urbanek said some of the programs they offer outside of physical wellness is a strong component of Club Parkinson’s. Dr. Susan Grey who is a psychologist at the campus counseling center leads an empowerment group therapy session for members of the club. A survey showed that group therapy was the members overall favorite class.

“That to us is a game changer because to us it allows for a lot of shared experiences, a lot of shared knowledge and just that mental health piece which is missed in a lot of other programs so it’s really vital to us,” Urbanek said.

“We have to fight the disease with movement and that is what helps keep the symptoms at bay or slow the progression of the disease so we can help with any stage of the disease,” Urbanek said.

For those affected with Parkinson’s Disease, they can become members of Club Parkinson’s by paying a monthly membership fee for themselves or for them and a caregiver. Membership fees are based on a sliding scale determined by income. A doctor’s prescription is not needed to join.

Classes are held Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s classes start at 11:45 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. On Friday’s classes start at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. Class types vary from pool therapy, cognition and voice, Nordic Walking, Yoga, Bal-A-Vis-X Hand eye coordination and cardio and Cybex weight training.

For more information email [email protected] Club Parkinson’s will have an open house to celebrate their one year anniversary on Oct. 18 from 5-7 p.m.