Just looking at Dennis Kelly, you’d never know what he’s been through.
“Everybody says if anybody can lick this it’s Dennis Kelly,” said his wife, Barbara. “He’s living life and living large!”
The 78-year-old certainly is living large. The workout fanatic, and 7th-degree black belt martial arts expert, is fighting the fight of his life.
“I still have the tremors but not as bad as they were and I can live with that because with Parkinson’s you lose your muscle strength, flexibility, all those things go,” he said. “Mental acuity all go down the drain. So we’ve been working on those things.”
Parkinson’s Disease affects up to 1 million people in the United States. Doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases each year. Parkinson's strikes 50 percent more men than women. The average age of onset is 60.
Dennis was diagnosed in 2013.
“I didn’t want to know he was sick so I kind of swept it under the rug and I went in my corner and cried and he went in his corner and cried,” said Barbara.
The diagnosis couldn’t keep him down. The author, personal trainer and multitime champion in martial arts had one goal still to accomplish, Parkinson’s or not – win a U.S. Open title.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Dennis for living that dream,” said Tom Forrest, friend and president of Zone Fitness, the gym where Dennis trains. “He’s an inspiration.”
On July 9, Dennis competed and won the 43rd Open I.S.K.A. Martial Arts Tournament in Orlando by beating a man 17 years his junior.
“This is the first time I’ve won at a U.S. Open,” he said with a giant smile while standing next to his 5-foot tall first-place trophy. “Being that I’ve won this with Parkinson’s Disease, if I can do this anyone can do anything. Inside of everyone is a champion ready to get out.”
Dennis plans to defend his title next year. His next competition is in November.