Our latest New Yorkers of the Week use the sport that brought Muhammad Ali global recognition to help others overcome one of life's most debilitating challenges. NY1's Roma Torre introduces us.
Sometimes, the most difficult battle is the one inside the mind.
Those living with Parkinson's disease understand. Every day, they're fighting for their lives.
"You're not just losing control of your body, but you're losing control of your life," Roberta Marongiu said. "And you start relying on friends and family to really accomplish any task."
"Part of what boxing does, it gives you back that feeling that identify of a guy whose fighting back," Alex Montaldo said.
Alex and Roberta are the cofounders of STOPD (Support and Training to Overcome Parkinson's Disease).
The husband and wife share a love of boxing. Alex is an actor, and Roberta is a neuroscientist.
"I was feeling a little bit frustrated that I was doing so much to find a cure that hopefully will come in like 20, 30 years, but I was not helping people in the present to better their quality of life," Roberta said.
Together, they're doing something about it now.
Alex and Roberta coach New Yorkers ages 40 to 92, every week at the famed Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn.
Since 2014, many people there have seen improvements.
"Boxing is very high intensity. It's also full body," participant William Greenspon said. "It's good for coordination, speed timing, balance, flexibility. Pretty much it's, in a way, the ultimate Parkinson's disease workout."
Through their training, the boxers discover community and the courage to go beyond perceived limitations.
"I used to be a pretty active tennis player. I could not continue that anymore," participant Ellsworth Thorndike said. "This has given me something to replace it, and has given me a lot of confidence."
"There's a lot of fear in terms of where you're going to be in 10 years, 20 years," Greenspon said.
"They're helping a lot of people deal with a very difficult disease," Greenspon said about Alex and Roberta. "It's changing lives and helping people cope on many levels."
We agree; that's why Alex Montaldo and Roberta Marongiu are our New Yorkers of the Week.