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Boxing out Parkinson's: A new program will help those fighting a debilitating disease


Retired Beloit police officer Doug Anderson set two plastic foam cups from Dunkin’ Donuts on Tim Scholten’s back and told him to hold steady.

Scholten, doubled over, red-faced and laser focused, did it without trouble.

Silly? Yes. Practical? Also yes.

The cup trick is a balance exercise that helps Scholten navigate life with Parkinson’s disease.

Scholten picked up the exercise from Rock Steady Boxing, a program that helps people with Parkinson’s improve their quality of life.

The program will be offered in Beloit beginning in early February.

Connie Udell has been teaching Rock Steady Boxing at her studio, SOL Fitness, 2100 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, for nearly a year, she said.

Inspired by her mother who had the disease, Udell was trained in Parkinson’s wellness and care in 2011.

Boxing provides participants with intense exercise that releases dopamine, a chemical people with Parkinson’s struggle to produce on their own, to the brain, Udell said.

The activity also builds confidence and community for those who need both, Udell said. She pointed across the room to a man with an ear-to-ear smile as he hit the punching targets for the first time to demonstrate this point.

The program boasts a tough-love mentality to push participants past mental barriers.

A 22-year-old Gazette reporter in relatively good health learned that to be true after one minute of boxing with Udell.

Coaches work with participants at a speed that matches their ability levels, Udell said. This was clear when she slowed her punching commands for a winded and slightly dizzy reporter.

Anderson, also a Rock Steady coach, became certified for the program after reconnecting with Udell. The two worked together at the police department years ago.

Simple wins are Anderson’s favorite part of the program, he said. He loves seeing participants conquer their fear of falling or perform simple drills they couldn’t before.

About 20 years ago, a Parkinson’s diagnosis was like a death sentence, Anderson said. Now, with help from the program and modern medicine, people are gaining quality years of life.

Exercises and drills are the same ones competitive boxers use but without contact, Udell said.

The program helps participants improve motor skills, gain strength and learn how to get up from a fall on their own, Udell said.

Scholten said his endurance, awareness and attitude have improved since he began working out with Udell. He can walk a 5K (a little more than 3 miles) on rare occasions thanks to her training.

A positive attitude is most important, Scholten said. Parkinson’s affects the mind and emotions as much as it affects physical well-being.

It wasn’t difficult for Scholten to “throw the white flag” on some of his daily activities, he said. He has learned to ask others to drive a car for him, button his shirt or get a wheelchair to move in a busy airport.

Scholten said his handwriting keeps getting smaller and he can’t walk a golf course anymore, but that does not stop him from doing things he loves.

He recently took trips to San Francisco and the East Coast with his son, he said. It’s a fair deal—Scholten pays, his son drives.

They plan to keep traveling in the future and see as many Major League Baseball stadiums as possible.

Whether its boxing with a former cop or taking a trip to Fenway Park in Boston, Scholten refuses to let Parkinson’s get in his way.

Abuse, neglect of local invalid Army veteran suspected


A local disabled veteran who was the focus of much sympathy and donations in 2016 was likely abused and neglected, and his wife has been removed as his legal guardian, according to court documents.

Janesville police are investigating the case and will refer their reports to the district attorney’s office for possible criminal charges against the veteran’s wife and caregiver, said Lt. Terry Sheridan of the police department.

Francis Hatch, 50, suffered a brain injury in 2012, resulting in a need for 24-hour care. He is bedridden and nonverbal, according to a petition for a temporary restraining order filed by the Rock County Human Services Department in Rock County Court.

The order, filed last month, asked to separate Francis from his wife, Deanna R. Hatch, 47, of 717 Tudor Drive, Janesville, to protect him and to avoid interference in an investigation of an at-risk person.

The Gazette in 2016 published articles about Francis’ condition, resulting in a flood of contributions.

The petition says Hatch was taken to Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center on Dec. 4, and indications were he had suffered physical abuse and neglect.

A Janesville police report indicates Francis was emaciated, had “skin break down,” another term for bed sores, and a wound on his leg that did not appear accidental.

Hatch had a series of blisters from his ankle to his knee, and his blood was drug-free, even though he was supposed to be medicated daily, according to the petition.

The drugs he had been prescribed included painkillers methadone and hydrocodone and a tranquilizer, benzodiazepine, according to the petition.

Deanna was Francis’ caretaker and legal guardian, according to the petition.

“Mr. Hatch lives at home with his wife and is completely dependent on her for his care. A foreclosure action on their home was filed with the court on July 26, 2017,” according to the petition.

“The Veterans Administration reports that it has been difficult to maintain unskilled help in the home to assist Mrs. Hatch with the daily care of Mr. Hatch,” the petition states. “Mrs. Hatch reportedly has a history of firing staff and being difficult to work with in order to provide services to Mr. Hatch.”

Judge Barbara McCrory on Dec. 13 modified the restraining order to allow Deanna Hatch to have a daily one-hour visit with her husband, supervised by Rock County Human Services, a court document indicates.

At a Dec. 20 court hearing, Judge Barbara McCrory dismissed the restraining order after hearing that a new guardian of Francis Hatch’s estate was being appointed.

Deanna Hatch’s attorney, Jack Hoag, told the court that Deanna believed the change in guardianship was in Francis’ best interest and that she willingly stepped down as guardian, according to a court document.

Gazette at a Glance for Jan. 17, 2018

Local • 3A

Milton rolls out wheel tax plan

With Milton approaching the first anniversary of its initial wheel tax collections, the city unveiled a 10-year outline of how it plans to put those funds to use. But a decade of planning could be for naught if the state eliminates local municipalities’ ability to implement wheel taxes, which are used to fund road repairs.

Blain’s expanding to Michigan

Blain’s Farm & Fleet said in a release Tuesday it’s working on two development deals to open new stores in the Kalamazoo collar community of Portage, Michigan, and another in Jackson, Michigan. The Janesville company said the Jackson and Portage stores would be the first two of multiple stores to launch in Michigan. The stores could be built and opened by fall 2018, according to the release.

Nation/World • 5B

Bannon gets two subpoenas

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday refused to answer a broad array of queries from the House Intelligence Committee about his time working for President Donald Trump, provoking a subpoena from the panel’s Republican chairman. That came the same day Bannon was subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a federal grand jury.

Janesville woman accused of theft from couple who wanted to help her


A Janesville woman faces a charge of felony theft after a town of Delavan couple complained she did not repay a $10,000 loan that was intended to help her disabled veteran husband.

Deanna R. Hatch, 47, of 717 Tudor Drive, Janesville, was charged in Walworth County Court last week with theft by false representation of an amount between $5,000 and $10,000.

As The Gazette reported in March, Robert and Lavonne Webster, town of Delavan, loaned Hatch $10,000 in 2016.

Hatch told the couple she needed $10,000 to add to a Veterans Administration grant so she could renovate her home to better care for her husband, Francis Hatch.

Francis, a 50-year-old former Army paratrooper, suffers from physical and mental disabilities that keep him mostly confined to bed. Francis’ situation was detailed in a 2016 Gazette article that got the Websters interested in helping, according to the criminal complaint.

The Websters said they took the money from a fund they had set aside for their grandchildren, and Hatch promised to return the money after she received proceeds from fundraisers held to help Francis, according to the complaint.

After they gave her the money, she would not return their calls and did not return the money, the Websters said.

A town of Delavan police detective contacted Hatch last July, and she told him she felt bad, but she had to use the money for unexpected expenses, including the death of her mother, according to the complaint.

Hatch told the detective she would make a $1,000 payment to the Websters by Aug. 1, and later she told him she sent a payment on Aug. 4, but the Websters received no payment, according to the complaint.

The detective talked to a Veterans Administration official who told him Hatch had begun the grant process but never completed it.

The detective examined Hatch’s bank records and found two deposits totaling $8,300 to her checking account and later a withdrawal of $2,787.

Hatch’s initial appearance in the case is set for Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Walworth County Judicial Center.

The maximum sentence for the crime is six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.