Beat Parkinson's Today
Michelle Hespeler is an educator and leader to both adults and children. Her twenty eight year career as a Physical Education teacher and coach was one that taught hundreds of children the benefits of exercise. Her passion to help children learn to be confident, respectful and healthy is evident when you see her teach. She is an athlete and fitness enthusiast herself, which also makes her a great role model for her students. She is living the daily struggle with her members.
Michelle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease over 15 years ago, at the age of forty. Her diagnosis was devastating, but she quickly decided to help the cause by joining clinical trials, starting a support group for young people with Parkinson’s and eventually creating an exercise program called Beat Parkinson’s Today. Her program started with 12 locations in Connecticut and has since expanded to other states, now offering in-person and online classes to members throughout the United State. Beat PD is based on her own trial and error, participation in numerous clinical trials and partnership with premiere Universities in novel science based research that has very promising results.
Michelle is the Co-Founder of CureNow:PD and the Executive Director of Beat PD Today, two non-profits working together to help PWPs live the best life they can today while supporting research to find the cure. Michelle is a strong leader in the Parkinson’s community. She says her strength to keep on fighting comes from her husband, Karl, her two children Krista and Kyle, and her mother who everyone knows as “Grandma Gale.” Michelle’s mantra sums up the way in which she lives each day - Think Strong, Move Strong and Be Strong, Beat PD Today.
My Story –Michelle Morianos Hespeler
I soon will celebrate my 15th year anniversary of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I had just turned 40. That is a day I will never forget and a day that changed my life forever. How those 15 years have flown by fast. But, on the other hand, I can’t remember life without PD. So many new people, new learning, new adventures, new dreams, new perspectives, new goals.
I will not let it beat me. With a few holistic changes to my life-style, I feel empowered that I can make a difference in the progression of this disease. I have decided to take this challenge and face it head on.
I started my fight against Parkinson’s soon after my diagnosis. I found a dear friend and doctor in Canada who was involved in a trial on exercise and PD. I went there and met him and worked with his group. I read research articles and I met with anyone I could to learn about this disease. I decided to hire a personal trainer to work my body as hard as it could. I fought through the shaking, and I continued to feel better and better. I moved better. I had more energy. That electricity I felt in my body from PD was released by exercising and I began to feel more “normal” again. My doctor noticed improvement in my symptoms and said, “keep doing what you are doing, it’s working.” And so, I did, and 15 years later, here I am.
As an educator with PD, it has become my mission to help others with PD to be the healthiest they can be in their journey with this disease. I am a Physical Education Teacher in Glastonbury and a youth athletic coach of many teams. I took the program that I developed with my trainer and fine-tuned it. I wanted to share my success with beating PD with everyone I knew that is afflicted with this disease. I started exercising with a couple PD friends and they felt better. I realized I had to share with more of the PD community. That is when I started “Beat Parkinson’s Today”, an exercise program for people with PD. We are almost three and a half years in business. I have 11 locations in Connecticut. Through trial and error, I have developed this program that meets the specific needs of Parkinson’s symptoms. Participants in Beat PD classes have seen amazing improvements physically and emotionally. Beat PD Today empowers people to take classes with certified trainers where we offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes to people with PD of all ages. They feel they have taken control of their destiny with this disease. The fight is possible and doing it with other people with Parkinson’s makes it fun and rewarding.
Here is where my focus lies, with all friends and family. I will not let it beat me. I feel empowered that I can make a difference in the progression of this disease. I have decided to take this challenge and face it head on. I want to share my exercise with everyone. The people in my classes inspire me to keep working hard. We inspire each other.
Michelle Hespeler (April, 2022)
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Bachelor of Science in Education, Major in Physical Education/Health, December 1989.
Master of Arts in Education, Major in Sport Management, May 1998.
Certified in Adult, Child and Infant CPR, First Aid and AED
Aerobic Fitness Instructor at a local fitness center for five years
Instructor for children’s fitness programs
Certified Instructor through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of Americ
Educational Experience -1980-present
Physical Education/Health Teacher for Grades K-5 at Buttonball Lane School
Physical Education/Health Teacher for Grades 7 & 8 at Smith Middle School
Physical Education/Health Teacher for 700 students in grades K-5 at Hopewell
Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT
Illing Jr. High School, Manchester, CT
Tolland High School, Tolland, CT
Manchester High School
East Catholic High School, Manchester, CT
Marlborough Youth Athletic League, Marlborough, CT