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Case Study: InMotion

InMotion’s holistic and integrated approach to helping people with Parkinson’s feel better every day is getting results – and showing how a small group of dedicated people can make a big impact.

Cleveland-based InMotion opened its doors in March 2015. Within a couple of hours of opening, 60 people had signed up for group exercise classes. Six months later, the nonprofit organization expanded its programs to include multiple classes offered five days a week. In addition to exercise and mindfulness classes, InMotion offers creative classes such as drumming, dance, singing, painting and handwriting. The center also has educational offerings that help people understand the disease and connect with a community that supports them.

“Our mission is to help people with Parkinson’s disease feel better every day,” says Cathe Schwartz, InMotion’s chief executive officer. “It’s simple and easy to understand and guides everything we do.”

Getting started in the InMotion community

Ben Rossi, InMotion’s chief program officer and one of its five co-founders, had worked in the fitness industry for more than two decades when a longtime client was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He sent Ben for training at Delay the Disease™ where the fitness pro become a qualified community exercise instructor for Parkinson’s. After returning to his performance training center in Cleveland, Ohio, Ben started a community class for people with Parkinson’s. As his involvement with the PD community in Northeast Ohio grew, he realized that there was a lack of programming for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Shortly after, Ben met Drs. Karen Jaffe, a person with Parkinson’s disease and David Riley, a movement disorder specialist, and together with the late Lee Handel and the late Allan Goldberg, the group recognized the large demand for exercise programs for the 30,000 people living with Parkinson’s in northeast Ohio. Each person brought a unique set of skills, background and expertise that contributed to InMotion’s founding.

“The mix of talent in this group of people was a recipe for success,” says Cathe Schwartz, chief executive officer of InMotion. “It was the right people, at the right time, in the right place, and for the right reason.”

Almost six years later, InMotion serves approximately 1,100 people in Northeast Ohio, has an operating budget of $1m which is all philanthropically generated, an active board of 28 individuals, a staff of eight employees and over 30 qualified coaches and trained volunteers.

InMotion’s success is evident by the testimonials available on its website. But the center doesn’t just rely on anecdotal evidence from participants. It also collects data from assessments of participants at regular intervals.

“From day one we started with assessments,” says Ben. “They help open conversations with providers, show our funders that we are making a measurable difference, and provide motivation and encouragement to our participants.”

Ben has developed a comprehensive assessment protocol with criteria that allows him to group participants into four color-coded levels that ensure everyone is attending the most appropriate classes. The assessments are conducted when a participant starts at InMotion and at regular six-month intervals afterwards. The assessments are also held in a fun group format that is motivating for participants.

“When someone completes an assessment, it’s very powerful,” says Ben. “At the end of the assessment they are fired up. I use that opportunity to remind them they have six months until the next one so get involved and try something new.”

Data from InMotion’s assessments was recently used in a paper published in the August 2020 issue of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise, mindfulness and education in a community and group setting.

After the initial assessment participants take an 8-week foundations program to learn about the basics of exercise for Parkinson’s. InMotion has also paired up with the Davis Phinney Foundation to offer a PD 101 course that teaches participants about Parkinson’s, how to advocate for themselves and how to cope with the disease. The course is followed with a PD 201 class that takes a deeper dive into the topics.

“We strive to offer classes, educational programs and camaraderie all under one roof,” says Ben. “Our programs and services are offered to both people with Parkinson’s and their care partners.”

Sustaining the center with the support of the philanthropic community

Thanks to the philanthropic community, all InMotion programs are offered for free to the Parkinson’s community. The center is committed to keeping its programs accessible to people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners.

“We are 100% donor funded,” says Cathe. “We have a terrific board and are located in a very philanthropic community that includes individuals, companies and foundations.”

InMotion’s annual event, Pals In Motion, raised more than $300,000 this year. The event was virtual and highlighted videos from guest speakers, including our founder, Brian Grant.

Looking to the future and expanding online and community programs

In response to the pandemic, InMotion began offering virtual classes in 2020. Today anyone, anywhere, can join the center and participate in its classes. The center has expanded services online and has welcomed clients from California, Florida, Georgia and New York. They are even talking to a group in Chile that is interested in their services.

All InMotion classes are now available through Zoom and the instructors work hard to keep the sense of community that is the backbone of all programs at the center.

“Our classes always start with a time to check in with participants,” says Ben. “Our instructors are also available to meet with people before class and privately through Zoom.”

In addition to expanding its online offerings, InMotion also purchased a building and moved in this year. The 20,000 square foot space will allow the center to offer simultaneous classes and expand programs to more people when InMotion opens its doors once again. The move is partly driven by the recognition that nothing can replace the community that’s created when people come together in a space where everyone understands what they’re going through.

“We tell people to leave stigma at the door. Embrace their situation. Understand they are in control and that they have a choice to be a worrier or a warrior,” says Ben. “It’s a can-do mentality that’s unstoppable. The bonds that are created here at InMotion can’t be broken.”

To learn more about InMotion, visit beinmotion.org.

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