BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For the past six years, a Buffalo-born gym has been giving hundreds of people with Parkinson’s disease a new lease on life. And now they’re expanding again — to bring their one-of-a-kind training to new clients.

One of them is former Buffalo Congressman Jack Quinn, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 8 years ago. 

For more than a decade, Jack Quinn represented the City of Buffalo, parts of the Southtowns and all of Chautauqua County on Capitol Hill.

These days, he has a new district, one not bound by borders or geography, but by the common thread of Parkinson’s, and the debilitating challenges that come with it.

Parkinson’s Boxing is not your typical gym. And its clients aren’t your typical gym rats.

In fact, some of them arrived at the Kenmore business in a wheelchair or with the use of a walker. That’s to say, they started coming that way.

Among Parkinson’s Boxing more than 200 weekly clients and biggest cheerleaders is Jack Quinn, the larger-than-life Republican Congressman, who for six terms on Capitol Hill represented Buffalo, parts of the Southtowns and Chautauqua County.

For 12 years, he battled for Western New York. For 10 years after that, he fought for students and staff, as the president of Erie Community College.

But it was during the end of his term leading the college that Quinn would face a new battle, one with which he was surprisingly all too familiar.

On Christmas Eve morning, eight years ago, doctors would tell Quinn the tingling sensation in his feet and a shaky thumb wasn’t the result of diet or lack of sleep.

“And he said you know, you got Parkinson’s,” Quinn said. “After he looked at me for a while, he saw me dragging my right leg, had a small tremor in one of my thumbs. And didn’t know where it came from. I thought a pinched nerve, not enough sleep.”

Quinn had long been a pillar of the Western New York community; incredibly well known, driven, busy and proud. He would say years later, too proud.

“I just frankly, it was a personal decision, did not want to share that with the public,” Quinn said. “Sometimes people look at you when you’ve got something wrong with you that it’s worse than it really is. And having Jeff go through that, I just decided to tamp it down and not tell anybody. My wife, my brother and my two kids knew.”

Quinn may have been quiet about his diagnosis. But he wasn’t alone. Two of Quinn’s brothers also have Parkinson’s, including his younger brother Jeff. Oddly, the experience was on his side.

“At the time, there’s lots of little tricks that you learn from people who have already had it. You park the car closer, you remember where you park the car No.1, you don’t hold the microphone when you’re speaking, you put it on the podium so its hands off and nothing starts to move.”

Three years later, a change of heart, thanks to his inner circle.

“They said, listen, you’re not going to get the help you need, whether it’s boxing, whether it’s your neurologist or whoever you need. You’re not going to get the help you need if you keep this a secret.

No longer keeping family, friends and colleagues in the dark, Quinn, now 70, turned to what he knew best: Fighting for causes in our nation’s capital.

Except now, he’s fighting harder for the cause of Parkinson’s, than he ever did for Western New York.

“Those are the tools I have that I know how to do, and I might as well put them to work for other people,” he said.

Quinn lobbied for increased government funding, helped to establish a national Parkinson’s registry, and was elected to the board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation last May. And, he boxed.

“When you realize the severity of this disease, and the fact that there’s no cure, and it’s degenerative, no matter who’s got it, you’ve got some work cut out for you,” Quinn said. “And I have found, as a citizen, as a person, that this program works.”

He started with simple exercises, added a medicine ball, and then fielded questions from his trainer and brother, Jeff, all while standing on a bosa ball.

“And when you do those repetitively, you find out at home, your memory’s a little bit better, you don’t have to walk so slowly around some corners, you get in and out of a car a little bit more easily,” Quinn said.

The methods used at Parkinson’s Boxing have been shown to drastically patient reduce falls and reliance on medications, as well as improve overall balance and eliminate the common shuffling gait. Workouts are tailored to each client, and their results are intricately tracked by gym president and owner Dean Eoannou.

“The skill sets have to fit together cognitively through meaningful learning to build a new brain map on new real estate on that brain. And once you figure it out, and see the results, it’s insane,” Eoannou said.

Dean spent more than a decade training fighters at the University at Buffalo. Six years ago, he went from working with D-1 athletes in their physical prime to changing the lives of people just looking to make it down a flight of stairs.

“When you compare what you would get out of these prime athletes to what you get out of these older men and women) There’s no comparison. There’s no comparison,” he said. “You’re changing people’s lives, you’re changing caregivers’ lives, you’re changing families’ lives, you’re changing the individual’s lives.

“If you heard the stories we’ve heard; they tell them there’s nothing we can do, go home. Nothing you can do,” Eoannou said. “These same people they tell that to, we have them rock climbing, hiking, they’re riding bikes, they’re swimming, they’re living their lives, they’re playing golf. It doesn’t get any better.”

Dave Greber is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.