As Caitlyn Madsen sat in and observed Jamie Haines' Freeland-based exercise class for Parkinson's disease patients, something clicked.
Haines, an instructor with CMU's physical therapy graduate program, invited Madsen and her fellow graduate student Rachel Michalski to observe the class held in Haines' hometown.
"We fell in love," Caitlyn said. "The participants in her class were extremely energetic and appreciative of what she did."
Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, and exercise can help a patient manage symptoms.
Caitlyn and Rachel realized pretty quickly this could change people's lives.
"Haines mentioned wanting to have a class at CMU one day, and Rachel and I decided to make that one day happen," Caitlyn said. "There aren't enough free community programs for people with Parkinson's disease, and there were really none within an hour radius of CMU. Exercise is so important for this population, and if we could add just one day to what they were already doing, we hoped we could impact their function and quality of life."
Thus came the idea for the MOVE! For Health exercise class, co-founded by Caitlyn and Rachel.
The duo promoted the idea to various hospitals, clinics and community centers. On the first day, they just hoped someone showed up.
In its first year, the program, which held classes once a week, had 10 patients that came on a regular basis.
Caitlyn has seen firsthand what the class means to the patients. Some traveled as far as an hour away to attend. Alongside Haines, the students have conducted research on the exercise's impact.
Caitlyn also has seen the class transform her, both personally and professionally.
"I have learned to think on my feet, interact with various patients and caregivers, work as a team with peers, and I have learned that PT can really be fun for both the physical therapist and patient," she said.