Endurance Runners Donate Medals to People Working Hard to Regain Skills

ANKENY, Iowa  --  Running a marathon or half marathon is a big accomplishment that takes months of dedication. Some runners realize others are out there working just as hard to accomplish daily tasks many people take for granted.

This is quite a workout for Sean Jenkins. "It's not an easy program. They work you pretty good."

He doesn't box at a typical gym. He participates in a program called the LSVT Boxing Class at On With Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center. "I was diagnosed at 45, which is really young for somebody with Parkinson's."

Jenkins was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a couple years ago after experiencing symptoms a few years before. "I'd be eating, and my hand would be shaking so much, food would actually fall off my fork," he said.

He started On With Life's LSVT Big and Loud program in April. Physical Therapist Jillian Jones said, "It's an intensive therapy program specifically designed for Parkinson's Disease. It works on a number of things: strength, range of motion, balance, endurance, also its overarching goal is sensory recalibration of the brain to change how your brain thinks about movement."

Jenkins still does the exercises daily, after graduating from the program with a big ceremony. It was complete with pom-poms, cheering, and even a medal. He said, "It's a great honor because you realize how much time and work you put into this."

His medal is from a program called Medal4Mettle. The South Suburban YMCA collects the awards from marathon and half marathon runners. A fresh ribbon that says Medal4Mettle is added and then given to ChildServe in Johnston and On With Life in Ankeny.

"We get to hand them out to people who really deserve and really show they work extremely hard and they had enough grit to get through to the end to discharge, and to graduation from the program. They deserve as much recognition as someone who did a full-on marathon," said Jones.

You can see how much work Jenkins puts into each punch. Instead of crossing the finish line, his goal is to control his disease. "The prognosis is I should have a longer life with this, should be a slow progression. And I'm trying to slow it down as much as possible,” he said.

The South Suburban YMCA is the host for the Medals4Mettle program. You can drop off or mail your half or full marathon medals there. You can also drop them off at Fitness Sports in Clive or Fleet Feet Des Moines in the East Village.