Grand Island residents pack a big punch

March 1, 2019

Powerful things are happening in Grand Island! Ashlyn Cramer is a physical therapist at the Grand Island Balance, Mobility, and Aquatic Therapy Center in Grand Island, Nebraska. After several local residents expressed a need for a Rock Steady Boxing class in Grand Island, Parkinson’s Nebraska helped Ashlyn participate in the Rock Steady Boxing Coaches Training Camp in June of 2018.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Ashlyn and see how her training has impacted the Grand Island Parkinson’s community. She describes the program as an opportunity to “incorporate strength, agility, balance, fine motor control, cognition, community and fun into one program targeted at “Fighting Back Against Parkinson’s” and the daily impairments people struggle with when living with this disease”. As a physical therapist, she has enjoyed sharing this program with her patients who are ready to be discharged to a home-based or community program.

The first class in Grand Island began in November of 2018 with 5 boxers. Within the last three months, the class has grown to 15 boxers. The class has boxers, or fighters as Ashlyn calls them, with varied impairments and severities of symptoms. The trainers are sure to incorporate a lot of fun while targeting each individual’s functional barriers to daily life. Many of the fighters have reported “strength and stability gains along with improved energy, increased mood/sense of support within the group, and even improved capability for completing fine motor tasks like buttoning shirts, writing, and managing small objects”.

Not only does Ashlyn share this program with her class, she uses it to spread awareness throughout the entire Grand Island community. She says has “attended support group meetings, shared this opportunity with local physicians/neurologists, and have even been able to spread public awareness about the disease and the benefits of this class through local news/media sources”. Check out article from NebraskaTV below.

Rock Steady Boxing offers special workout for those with Parkinson’s

Squaring up to take the punch out of Parkinson’s, balance mobility and aquatic therapy has partnered with the Grand Island YMCA to host Rock Steady boxing classes, a special course that is designed to assist those with Parkinson’s.

The Rock Steady Boxing classes are led by Ashlyn and Kasady, a PT Tech, and meet at the Downtown YMCA in Grand Island, Nebraska on the following days:

                Tuesday & Thursday: 10:00 am- 11:00 am

                Monday & Friday: 11:00 am- 12:00 pm

Contact the Grand Island Balance, Mobility, and Aquatic Therapy Center at 308-398-2170 for questions about the class or to set up an initial evaluation for a one-time fee of $75 (which includes education on the program, initial assessment, and boxing wraps/gloves).

Once an evaluation is completed, boxers can attend class as many times a week as they’d like with a YMCA membership. Membership pricing options can be discussed with Grand Island YMCA at 308-395-9622.

January 2020 Grant Recipients

January 2, 2020

Parkinson’s Nebraska is on a mission to be the primary source of Parkinson’s disease education, support, and services in Nebraska. One way we support the Parkinson’s community is by providing financial support to programs that are making a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson’s and their families. We are proud to announce our latest round of grant recipients!

Kris Costello

Kris teaches the Functional Movement for Seniors class at Messiah Lutheran Church in Lincoln, NE. She attended the Delay the Disease training this past July because she wanted to provide more specialized services to the people with PD in her class. She was awarded a grant to provide medicine balls, which she can use to introduce new exercises and improve the quality of the class!

If you are in Lincoln, stop by Kris’ Functional Movement for Seniors class:

Functional Movement for Seniors
Messiah Lutheran Church
1800 S 84th St.
Lincoln, NE 68506
Fridays 11:00-11:45 am
Cost: $30/ 6- week session or $10 drop- in
Kris Costello

Grand Island YMCA Rock Steady Boxing Class

The Grand Island YMCA, with the Grand Island Balance Mobility ands Aquatic Center, provides a Rock Steady Boxing class to the Grand Island community, and it keeps growing! We are thrilled to present the Grand Island YMCA with a training grant for another professional to become a certified Rock Steady Boxing coach!

Go and see Ashlyn and the other Rock Steady Boxing coaches at the Grand Island YMCA:

Rock Steady Boxing
Grand Island YMCA
221 E. South Front St.
Grand Island, NE 68801
Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Monday and Friday 11:00 am- 12:00 pm
$75 initial evaluation
Contact Grand Island YMCA for membership options
Ashlyn Cramer: 308-398-2170;
Grand Island YMCA: 308-398-9622

Craig Bontrager and Jefferson Community Health & Life

Craig Bontrager, director of the Burkley Fitness Center at the Jefferson Community Health & Life, is passionate about increasing Parkinson’s services to Fairbury. Fairbury has a Parkinson’s support group and large number of people with Parkinson’s in the area. Parkinson’s Nebraska is proud to award Craig with a training grant to become a Rock Steady Boxing certified coach and Jefferson Community Health and Life with a grant to pay for the affiliate fee to get the class started! We are thrilled to work with Craig to meet a need and bring services to the Fairbury community.

Classes coming in Fall 2020!

Jody Augustyn at the Sherman County Senior Center

Jody teaches a Strength and Balance yoga class at the Sherman Senior Center in Loup City, NE. She attended the Delay the Disease training to be able to provide more specialized services to the large PD population in the area, and she is dedicated to improving lives.  Parkinson’s Nebraska is proud to award Jody with an ongoing class sponsorship, making it our first sponsored class outside of the Omaha metro!

Join Jody at the first specialized exercise class for people with Parkinson’s in Loup City:

Strength and Balance
Sherman County Senior Center
617 O St.
Loup City, NE 68853
Mondays and Wednesdays 10:00- 10:30 am
Cost: Contact Jody for cost information
Jody Augustyn

We are so grateful to have these professionals and organizations on our journey to fight Parkinson’s!  

2019 Impact

January 2, 2020

Thank you for a great year!

Our biggest highlight of the year was the Delay the Disease training in July. Since July, the training has impacted:

  • 55 professionals certified
  • 23 specialized exercise classes
  • 13 therapy providers
  • 18 communities across Nebraska
  • a new support group in Beatrice
  • Statewide connections

Other ways we have impacted the community:

  • We have sponsored over 450 Parkinson’s exercise class in the Omaha metro area
  • We gave 9 educational presentations in Omaha and rural communities across Nebraska, educating and spreading awareness to over 230 people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers.
  • We participated in 12 community events
  • We engaged with over 2,000 Nebraskans
  • We hosted 12 support groups, connecting the community and providing resources

Some other things we have been working on to increase our ability to serve the community:

  • Regularly updated website
  • Online Resource Directory with the most current listing of Parkinson’s resources in Nebraska
  • Online Community Calendar where people can search for services by city
  • Growing monthly newsletter to engage with people across the state

Please join us as we build on our momentum and continuing to expand services, engage with the Parkinson’s community, and foster our new statewide relationships in the upcoming year.  

Genesis Rehab Services: Vitality to You Program

July 31, 2019

Vitality, by definition, is “the state of being strong, active, and full of energy”. Genesis Rehab Services (GRS) offers a unique program that embodies the essence of this definition. Vitality to You is an outpatient therapy services that brings occupational, physical, and speech therapy services directly to the client, in their home or community. GRS offers this program in the Omaha Metro and in various cities throughout the state.

Not only can they provide therapy services in the home or their clinic, but they can also complete therapy sessions in non-traditional environments, focusing on community integration. Common locations include, but are not limited to, grocery stores, the gym, church work areas, family member’s homes, camp sites, restaurants, sporting events, accessing public transportation, and indoor/outdoor leisure tasks. Their team of professional, knowledgeable, and compassionate therapists assists clients in developing the skills needed to be safe and successful at home and to confidently return the tasks they want and need to do in the community.

The GSB team has extensive training in complex diseases, pain, dementia management, seating and positions, falls and balance, and specialized equipment evaluations. In the Omaha Metro area, Vitality to You also provides specialty programs for Parkinson’s disease. The program targets the Parkinson’s symptoms using the LSVT BIG ©️ and SPEAK OUT! ©️ Programs.

LSVT BIG ©️ is a four times per week, one month long program designed to combat the common motor symptoms of Parkinson’s such as shuffling gait, rigidity, small movements, poor posture, and loss of balance. The SPEAK OUT! ©️ program focuses on speech production, vocal quality, volume an control, along with a home exercise program to help maintain function once therapy is complete. Based on individual needs and personal goals, the team develops an individualized plan of care to increase safety and independence.

Listed below are common reasons for therapy services:

Physical Therapy

  • Unsteady gait
  • Frequent falls
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Pain
  • Decreased activity tolerance
  • Difficulty with transfers
  • Difficulty with mobility

Occupational Therapy

  • Decreased success to complete Activities of Daily Living (dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming, and hygiene, self-feeding)
  • Decreased independence with home management or community tasks
  • Adaptive equipment recommendation and evaluations
  • Decreased safety at home
  • LSVT BIG ©️ (Omaha Metro area)

Speech Therapy

  • Changes with speech, resulting in others having difficulty understanding you
  • Trouble expressing wants, needs and/or socializing less
  • Problems with understanding or following directions
  • Changes in vocal quality
  • Difficulty with cognition (i.e. focusing, problem solving, memory, organizing thoughts, etc.)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • SPEAK OUT! ©️ (Omaha Metro area)

Vitality to You in Omaha is the only Vitality program based out of a skilled nursing facility. If a skilled need is required, the Vitality therapists can develop a plan of care at the facility, then transition to the Vitality program after discharge. The team is able to follow clients through the entire continuum of care.

How to get started:

  1. Obtain an order for occupational, physical, or speech therapy services from your primary doctor or neurologist. The Vitality team can assist wit retrieving orders and determining which services would be the most beneficial.
  2. Verify insurance coverage.
  3. Get started with therapy services.

For Vitality to You program information, referrals, skilled nursing care, or assistance obtaining physician’s orders, please contact:

Molly Ganow Senior Director of Rehabilitation 2525 S. 135th Ave Omaha, NE Phone: 402-350-4232 Fax: 402-333-3356

For information regarding the Parkinson’s specialty program in the Omaha area, please contact:

Amber Rieken OTR/L, MOT, Certified Dementia Practitioner, LSVT BIG©️ Phone: 402-350-4232

For information on the Vitality to You program offered throughout the state, please contact

Vitality to You can assist in returning to independence at home or in the community. Take control over Parkinson’s disease, and live life to the fullest!

Delay the Disease training improves Parkinson’s services in Nebraska

July 19, 2019

Parkinson’s Nebraska welcomed 55 professionals from across Nebraska to the Midwest Delay the Disease training in Grand Island, Neb., on July 18-19. The training provided attendees with the knowledge and tools to design and implement a community-based, Parkinson’s- specific exercise class. Because of the Parkinson’s Nebraska commitment to making training accessible, all attendees were provided with the cost of registration, lodging, a mileage stipend, and meals throughout the training.  

The attendees learning about the scientific and evidence- based benefits of exercise in the management of Parkinson’s disease.

Jackie Russell, RN, BSN, CNOR and David Zid, BA, ACE, APG, the co-founders of the Delay the Disease program and training instructors, led an informative and interactive workshop. The training began with Jackie sharing the science and evidence- based benefits of exercise. David led the rest of the training, teaching exercises that target Parkinson’s symptoms and how to design a Parkinson’s exercise class. Together, they brought a dynamic energy that made the training fun and inspiring!

Getting ready to learn about exercises that target Parkinson’s symptoms.
Learning about taking BIG steps and counting LOUD
Improving arm swing with David’s Ziddy Sticks.

Parkinson’s Nebraska provided the attendees with a dinner and presentation hosted at the Ramada by Wyndham Midtown Grand Island. John Bertoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Neurological Sciences, and director of the Parkinson’s disease program at Nebraska Medicine, UNMC’s clinical partners, was the guest speaker at the training. He presented on the role of Exercise in Parkinson’s Disease Management and conducted a lively Question and Answer session. The group appreciated Dr. Bertoni’s experience, and humor, in the presentation.

Parkinson’s Nebraska provided dinner for the attendees.
Dr. Bertoni on the big screen, talking about the role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease.

On the second day of the training, there was a demo class for the attendees to practice their new skills with real participants. More than 20 people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers traveled from Omaha, Lincoln, and Grand Island to participate in the training’s Demo Class. After the class, they enjoyed a lunch provided by Parkinson’s Nebraska and get to meet the training attendees. It was a great opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the Parkinson’s community and network with others across the state.  

The Demo Class participants mingling and waiting for class to start.
Demo Class balloon fun!

The immense impact this training has made on the Nebraska community is made possible through a partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation.  The foundation awarded Parkinson’s Nebraska a community grant to help training costs. Because of the grant, Parkinson’s Nebraska was able to provide the training to more professionals and further increase the number of exercise classes throughout Nebraska.  

As a result of the Delay the Disease training there will be 21 new Parkinson’s exercise classes across Nebraska. Parkinson’s Nebraska has recognized a lack of services in rural communities and is proud that over 15 classes will serve under-served areas. This is just the beginning of Parkinson’s Nebraska’s commitment to the making services across the entire state.

To learn more about how Parkinson’s Nebraska is serving the Parkinson’s community, visit

Columbus Community Hospital’s Rehabilitative Services boasts impressive Parkinson’s program

July 3, 2019

At Parkinson’s Nebraska, we have been focused on expanding our reach into the rural communities across Nebraska. In June, Amber was able to travel to Columbus, NE to visit with the Columbus Area Parkinson’s Support Group to share information about Parkinson’s Disease and how we are helping improve lives. Thank you to Michell Ruskamp, M.S., CCC-SLP, assistant director of CCH’s Rehabilitative Services, for inviting Parkinson’s Nebraska to talk to the group!

After the meeting, Michell gave a tour of the Columbus Wellness Center. The impressive facility is home to both the CCH’s Rehabilitative Services and the Columbus Family YMCA. The partnership provides many benefits to patients, including the Transition Program. After progressing out of therapy, the therapists provide patients with fitness advice and help them transition into a regular exercise routine at the Columbus Family YMCA. This unique program promotes healthy living by encouraging patients to continue exercising after the completion of therapy. This is especially valuable for people with Parkinson’s because of the immense benefits exercise provides in symptom management.

The CCH’s Rehabilitative Services also boasts a comprehensive Parkinson’s Wellness Program designed to help people with PD delay the effects of the disease while improving their quality of life and independence. There are many therapy, exercise, and community services available within the Parkinson’s Wellness Program including:

  • LSVT-BIG®: An intensive physical training for individuals with PD
  • Parkinson Wellness Recovery – PWR!®: A therapy approach focused on early intervention, enrichment, education, and empowerment
  • LSVT-LOUD®: An intensive speech therapy to improve the speech and swallow functions for people with PD
  • SPEAK OUT!®: An intensive speech therapy to improve the speech and swallow functions for people with PD
  • The CCH LOUD Crowd®: A weekly maintenance voice exercise group designed to help PD patients carry over the skills they learned in voice therapy, so they are able to keep their voices and swallow function strong long after therapy has ended. Participants must be a former SPEAK OUT!® or LSVT-LOUD® patient.
  • Occupational therapy:  Therapy that focuses on the Activities of Daily Living for people with PD.
  • Rock Steady Boxing: A noncontact, boxing-based fitness curriculum designed to help people with Parkinson’s improve quality of life through lessened symptoms and a happier, healthier life. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:15-2:15 pm at the Columbus Wellness Center.
  • The Columbus Area Parkinson Disease Support Group: The monthly support group invites speakers to present on information selected by the group. The group meets the second Thursday of every month from 2:30-4:00 pm at the Columbus Wellness Center.
  • The PD Resource Library: The PD Resource Library in Rehabilitative Services includes information from many Parkinson’s resources such as Speak Out!® workbooks, LSVT-LOUD® and BIG® Homework Helper DVDs and digital sound level meters for The CCH LOUD Crowd® participants.

The CCH’s Rehabilitative Services will also be hosting the first Parkinson’s symposium to take place in Columbus, NE in April 2020. It will include a variety of speakers sharing PD education on a variety of topics throughout the one-day event. Stay tuned for more information! For more information about the Columbus Community Hospital’s Rehabilitative Services and the Parkinson’s Wellness Program call the Columbus Wellness Center at 402-556-3333 or visit

Dance for PD class helps Lincoln Parkinson’s community

June 3, 2019

Dance for PD is a movement class that empowers people with PD and their caregivers to explore movement and music in enjoyable, stimulating and creative ways to keep and regain mobility.

Dance Helps Those in Lincoln Battling Parkinson’s

A story that aired on 10/11 News about the Dance for Parkinson’s program put on by Ruth Davidson Hahn & Company in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Why Dance for PD®?

  • Dance develops flexibility and instills confidence.
  • Dance is first and foremost a stimulating mental activity that connects mind to body.
  • Dance breaks isolation.
  • Dance invokes imagery in the service of graceful movement.
  • Dance focuses attention on eyes, ears and touch as tools to assist in movement and balance.
  • Dance increases awareness of where all parts of the body are in space.
  • Dance tells stories.
  • Dance sparks creativity.
  • The basis of dance is rhythm.
  • The essence of dance is joy

About Ruth Davidson Hahn

Ruth Davidson Hahn is professional dancer formerly with the Mark Morris Dance Group.  She has been specially trained in the Dance for PD® method.

“Ruth treats each person in the class — the Parkinson’s clients and their accompanying caregivers — as capable of meaningful expression through movement. By practicing real dance warmup moves, the members of her class get an insight into what modern dance is about, from the viewpoint of a professional modern dancer. As an instructor trained in the Dance for Parkinson’s approach, Ruth has a unique way of making her class feel like a choreographed team, while paying close attention to the challenges facing each individual member. ‘There is no bad dancing,’ she says, as she shows you how to get better.”   David Fowler, Dance for Parkinson’s Caregiver 

Words from one couple who attend Dance for Parkinson’s; “By the end of class each time I was walking on my own and without my walker just as if I weren’t suffering from this terrible malady. Dance for Parkinson’s has to be the best thing for people like me. I was sorry when the class was over. Thanks to Ruth for all her help.” Carolyn Johnsen, Dance for Parkinson’s Participant

Upcoming Session

Parkinson’s Nebraska is proud to sponsor the Ruth Davidson Hahn & Company Dance for PD class in Lincoln, NE. Please join us for the next 6-week session beginning on Wednesday, June 26th.

Where: Nebraska Ballet Theatre & School
            2620 O St. (map)
            Lincoln, Nebraska

When: Wednesdays, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
            June 26th – July 31st

Price: $30 for a 6-week session (Anything over $30 is a tax-deductible donation)

Caregivers, spouses or partners free, drop-ins welcome.

To learn more or to register, please visit or call Ruth Davidson Hahn at 402-540-1242 or email

Jacey Gengenbach at 2018 Functional Aging Summit

May 3, 2019

Functional aging is a concept that is based on the idea that measurements other than chronological ago can be used to measure someone’s position in the aging process. The Functional Aging Institute (FAI) is a training platform for personal trainers specializing in fitness for older adults. Each year since 2015, it hosts the Functional Aging Summit- the world’s premier fitness, training, and aging event.

Jacey Gengenbach, the instructor for the Parkinson’s Nebraska- sponsored exercise lass called Strength and Balance, attended the Summit in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, she was asked to be a speaker at the Summit. Her presentation was on Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease and she shared information about:

  • What Parkinson’s Disease is
  • The benefits of exercise
  • Myths and misconceptions
  • Do’s and don’ts for professionals
  • A training demo
  • Client success stories.

One of her favorites parts of being at the Summit is being surrounded by fitness and aging experts, learning from others, and sharing her experiences and knowledge. “The knowledge and passion at this event is truly amazing… The Summit literally helps you get better at everything.”

The clients Jacey works with at Fitness and Beyond also benefit from the Summit because she is bringing back the latest and greatest in exercise and wellness for active aging adults. She says that the Summit “helps [professionals] get better at everything.” Just like that is the goal of the Summit, Jacey’s goal is to have her clients moving better, feeling better, and doing the things they love as long as possible.

Additionally, Jacey has co-authored a book with Functional Aging Institute co-founder, Dan Ritchie titled Active Aging: Functional Fitness to renew Your Strength, Balance, and Energy for the Best Years Yet. The book explores functional fitness and how it can “equip you to live life at full strength”.

Parkinson’s Nebraska is proud to have Jacey as a partner and are grateful for the knowledge and expertise she provides to the Parkinson’s community. Parkinson’s Nebraska sponsors the Strength and Balance class at Fitness and Beyond (1032 S. 74th Plaza, Omaha, NE). Stop by and check it out!

            Monday           11:30 am- 12:30 pm

                                    12:00 pm- 1:00 pm

            Tuesday           12:30 pm- 1:30 pm

            Wednesday      12:30 pm- 1:30 pm

            Thursday         12:30 pm- 1:30 pm

To learn more about Jacey, her book, and her classes please visit

Maintaining Movements for Big Results

March 1, 2019

Nate Hall from Style Fitness and Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska is an inspiring example of the passion people have for helping the Parkinson’s community. His journey with Parkinson’s began with his father’s diagnosis. After his father began to experience symptoms, he was inspired to develop a program that challenged patients to use their minds and control their body to help slow the side effects of Parkinson’s.

The class has grown steadily since it began. He expects 10 people in his next class. His class provides more than physical benefits. It provides comradery and support that you can only get from people going through the same experience. On February 28th, WOWT did the following story on Nate’s Maintaining Movements with Parkinson’s Disease class.

Workout class adapted for people living with Parkinson’s

It might not look like a high impact workout, but what it does for those taking part means so much more. ‘My worst part is tremors with my right side of my body and my gait,’ Steve Hall said. ‘Exercise…

Parkinson’s Nebraska is proud to support Nate and the Maintaining Movements for Parkinson’s class. Earlier this week, Parkinson’s Nebraska approved a $563.20 grant for Nate’s class to go towards new equipment including versa tubes, sparring gloves, and an agility ladder. We look forward to partnering with Nate to help create a bigger impact in the Parkinson’s community. Below is more information on the Maintaining Movements for Parkinson’s class:

Maintaining Movements with Nate
Style Fitness and Nutrition
15117 Industrial Rd.
Every other Friday @ 5 p.m.– next class: 3/8/19
Cost: FREE
Contact Name: Nate Hall
Phone: 402-719-7853

The next class will be held at Style Fitness and Nutrition on Friday, March 8th at 5:00 pm. The class is currently offered every other Friday, but Nate is working with Parkinson’s Nebraska to expand the number of classes offered. Contact Nate at 402-719-7853 or

Role of Environmental Factors in Parkinson’s Development Investigated in Review Study

February 4, 2019

The hallmark presence of Lewy bodies in the pathway related to sense of smell and in the gut years before a Parkinson’s diagnosis, as well as the potential cumulative impact of different triggers, may help researchers understand the environmental factors that contribute to the development of the disease, according to a review study.