Page 64 - South Mississippi Living - June, 2022
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Seashore Highlands Retirement Community gets Ready to Rumble in Boxing Bid
story and photos courtesy of Bill Pemberton
Callahan were introduced by a shared friend to discuss the possibility of introducing boxing drills to the elders
at Seashore Highlands Retirement Community. Daniel and the leadership team had been discussing a wellness vision for the residents of Seashore Highlands. Callahan had been working with his mother and her friends at his gym in
Long Beach. The grants were written and submitted, but they did not go through at
ABOVE: Ms. Lois throws a sharp left hook from her chair, while keeping her right hand at the ready.
LEFT: Shirley Duteil finds boxing from her wheelchair is no obstacle to “packing a real punch.”
T hese fighters are trained to deliver snappy left
jabs, right crosses, and
uppercuts in endless and intense combinations. They repeat the name of each punch loud and clear in
response to sharp commands from their professional boxing coach. No, they’re not 20-something athletes training for a Golden Gloves tournament. They’re men and women mostly in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and many are living with Parkinson’s disease and other types of dementia.
No punches actually connect, yet their fight is real – and for many – aimed at escaping the grip of Parkinson’s disease, which seeks to take away their ability to walk or even talk audibly. Still, they’re determined to “go the distance” in fending off its cruel blows to both brain and body.
It’s all part of a new Parkinson’s-
focused initiative at Seashore Highlands in Gulfport called “Punch Out Parkinson’s.” The onsite program is based on the latest independent science on how boxing drills can slow the onslaught of Parkinson’s. The new program attracts about 20 senior residents to each session, and Executive Director Jennifer Persechino is already a huge fan.
“The response to our boxing program has been phenomenal,” said Persechino. “It’s one of the very few senior community activities that attract senior men as well
as women. Many of them were quite physically active earlier in their lives, and they are delighted to discover they can still revisit the thrill of physical achievement while gaining higher levels of health and mobility.”
Enter Louis Callahan, a top boxing talent and now boxing coach, with motivational skills straight out of a Rocky movie. Callahan won national-level honors as an amateur boxer, and even beat a
few fighters, such as Roy Jones, Jr., who went on to become world champions. As it turned out, Callahan’s early boxing dreams had to be put on hold to work in his father’s timber business in order to support his fast-growing family. He worked hard in timber, but his dream never died.
In 2018, Michelle Daniel, Vice President of Philanthropy for Methodist Senior Services (MSS), and Louis
   64 | June 2022 | SOUTH MISSISSIPPI Living

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