Pandemic can't KO Rock Steady

Mike Trueblood/
The Register-Mail
Galesburg's Dave Beversdorf throws a punch at director Carlos Duncan during Rock Steady boxing on Friday, July 17, at Rotary Park.

GALESBURG — It should be no surprise the members of the Rock Steady program have persevered through the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nine of the 15 members of the program sponsored by the Galesburg Youth Athletic Club and longtime boxing coach Carlos Duncan showed up Friday morning in the growing humidity at Rotary Park for one of their thrice-weekly workouts.

After all, when you've dealt with Parkinson's Disease and other physical setbacks, the problems presented by a pandemic might seem less daunting.

Duncan said the group shares the outlook, "What would you be doing if you weren't here today?“

With most wearing masks and all practicing social distancing, the group — which normally meets in the GYAC's boxing gym at Weinberg Arcade — followed class leader John Peterson in their workout routine.

Under his good-natured direction, it included stretching, calisthenics and even a short session banging on the punching mitts.

Rock Steady is a non-contact, boxing-based fitness routine with affiliates in three countries which emphases agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and strength.

Studies have shown the program to be an especially effective therapy in those afflicted by Parkinson's.

Under the roof of the Rotary Park's shelter, the outdoor setting was another concession to the pandemic.

"Carlos and I hopped in the car one day," said Peterson of Rock Steady's move outdoors when the state's phased return to normal social activities was eased early this month.

"We decided this was the place. It was an executive decision."

A former Galesburg city councilman and retired Burlington Northern employee, Peterson joined Rock Steady two years ago to help deal with the impact of multiple sclerosis.

"I read about it in the newspaper," he said of the program. "I asked my doctor if he thought it would be good for me and he said, 'I don't think it would hurt you any.'

"It's been a good mix. It's been a riot.

"I've improved and it's been a real good thing."

The diverse group included Dave Beversdorf and his wife, Diane, and an Illinois Hall of Fame football coach, Bill Wise.

"Rock Steady is highly recognized as the premere program to combat Parkinson's," said Beversdorf.

"It keeps you moving."

Beversdorf, who retired from Maytag in 2002, is well-known as one of the most successful fundraisers for charities and organizations in Galesburg history. His efforts provided big financial boosts for groups to include churches, Carl Sandburg College, the Galesburg High School booster club and the Defenders of Freedom just to name a few. The last charity he assisted: Rock Steady.

His best memories are of the baseball card shows of the 1980s when he drew Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Pete Rose and Ozzie Smith to town.

"My crowning achievement was bringing in Joe DiMaggio in 1987," said Beversdorf. "We had record attendance.

"I came in the night before and the parking lot was full of people waiting in line for tickets," he recalled.

Anyone wanting memories of Wise's coaching career — which included ROVA High School in the 1960s — just needed to watch and listen to him count out the repetitions of exercises just like he once did for the Tigers.

"It just comes out I guess," he said. "I talk loud. Parkinson's affected my speech."

Wise, who is hoping to see pro football on TV in the fall, is a big fan of Rock Steady.

"I went from 377 pounds down to 177," he said. "This helps to keep the weight off.

"I fall down once in a while and this has really helped me get up.

"But I like the camaraderie and the people, I like to laugh a lot."

Rock Steady meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. at the shelter in Rotary Park. Cost to participate is $25 per month.

For information on the program contact Duncan at (309) 299-1606.

Mike Trueblood is the former longtime sports editor for The Register-Mail. You can email him at

Galesburg's Bill Wise throws some punches at director Carlos Duncan during Rock Steady boxing at Rotary Park on Friday, July 17.