When Fit4Boxing opened in Hampton in 2015, its owners already intended to work with people of all abilities.

“We started working with people with Parkinson’s disease as soon as we opened,” said Brett Burkhart, managing partner of Fit4Boxing. “My uncle was training with a guy from Sewickley who had Parkinson’s, and his symptoms really started to improve, although we never really knew why.”

Soon after, Burkhart was made aware of a boxing program called Rock Steady Boxing, which uses a non-contact boxing-based fitness program to try to improve the quality of life for people with the disease. of Parkinson’s.

“We were among the top 35 programs in the country, and now there are over 800,” Burkhart said. “We’ve also had people contact us about working with other special needs groups. So over the years it kind of continued to grow.

Fit4Boxing instructors have worked with clients who have suffered strokes or undergone amputations and launched a new program, Down to Box, in partnership with the Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh.

“It’s more geared toward teens than adults, providing a safe environment for them to have that fitness opportunity,” said Meredith Peterson, chief executive of DSA Pittsburgh. “And Fit4Boxing fit that bill. They already have a Parkinson’s program and they understand the uniqueness of working with someone who has special needs.

Down to Box provides tools to help participants develop skills in coordination, self-defense and physical fitness. The program began at Fit4Boxing’s original location in Hampton, followed by a location in Murrysville.

Emilie Sears of Lower Burrell enrolled her 14-year-old son, Kayden, in the program. Kayden has sensory processing issues and Tourette syndrome.

“I have never seen my child smile and feel so proud as the first day we were there,” Sears said. “The self-confidence that comes out of my child is wonderful.”

Sears said she’s excited to enroll her daughter – who is on the autism spectrum – when the fall class rolls around.

“We have sponsors to help subsidize this for our families,” Peterson said. “It’s open to anyone with an intellectual disability, but specifically people with Down syndrome.”

The class lasts 13 weeks at both locations at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at the Hampton location and Thursdays at the Murrysville location.

Sears said she could already see improvement in Kayden, even after just two weeks of classes.

“With Tourette, it’s hard to get out of your head and focus on something physical,” she said. “I asked him (in class last night) if he had any tics, and he said, ‘I just pierce them.’ It helps him refocus.

Burkhart said the program is just an extension of the approach they already had at Fit4Boxing.

“We already had a few people in our gyms who had Down syndrome, so we said sure – we’re thrilled about that,” Burkhart said. “The training provided by boxing can really help people from all walks of life.”

For more information, visit Fit4BoxingClub.com or contact DSA Pittsburgh at 412-565-9936.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .