Exercise has always been a part of Tom Hunkele’s life.
As a Master Trainer and Fitness Therapist in Chicago, Ill., Hunkele worked in one of the most elite parts of town. But in 1999, his way of approaching exercise changed. That year, his wife Chris was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. While the Hunkele’s were shocked and devastated by the news, they were also determined to keep her moving and mobile.
Thus, the idea for Opening Doors was born. The exercise program is aimed at persons with limited movement who also suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, or a stroke. Hunkele said the class will help with onset weakness, muscle failure, restricted movement, and diminished stamina - and in some cases simply the desire to stay at rest.
“It will regenerate muscle tone and stamina,” Hunkele explained. “Tone is the ability to move. Stamina is the ability to move frequently.”
“And I want them [participants] to feel important and not left out because something unfortunate has happened to them,” he added. “I want them to think of the class as ‘opening doors.’ Opening doors for hope, social activity, and feel valuable.”
In essence, Hunkele said, to help participants understand that life doesn’t have to stop because of their diagnosis. But he warned, the “Opening Doors” exercise program is not a miracle cure either.
“This is not a therapy that will take away their disease,” said Hunkele. “But it will bring hope back into their lives.”
The class will include light work with weights, exercise bands, and small balls - all set to age appropriate music. Hunkele said one of the best things about the program is participants can do the exercises standing up, sitting down, or sitting in a wheel chair.
“I want it to be challenging and enhance their life,” he said. “I know it will. I had that experience with my wife.”
This is the second time “Opening Doors” has operated in LaGrange. In 2004, after moving from Chicago to the area, Hunkele started the program at the Troup County Recreational Center. It ended in 2006, after Hunkele was sidelined with triple bypass surgery. But with the support of the rec center and the new gym, Max Fitness, “Opening Doors” will open it’s doors once again to folks in Troup County.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere,” Hunkele said. “It’s a lot of fun and we have a lot of jokes. It’s important to take advantage of this class. You may have Multiple Sclerosis, but Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t have you. That’s key.”
“Opening Doors” will start next Wednesday at the Troup County Recreational Center on Lafayette Parkway, and will continue every Wednesday through August. Hunkele hopes to hold the class two times a week by fall. For more information about the exercise program contact Tom Hunkele at (706) 594-6632 or the Troup County Rec Center at (706) 883-1670.