BEND, Ore. - Table tennis, or pingpong, is no easy sport. For some people, it can even help change their life for the better.
Six years ago, Bend resident George Lee was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
"Parkinson's is a disease that sucks your life, one day at a time," Lee said recently. "And if you don't get out and get ahead of it with exercise, social connection, and support groups. It can be devastating."
With help from Parkinson's Resources of Oregon, Lee discovered exercise from playing table tennis helps delay the progression of Parkinson's. So he joined the Bend Table Tennis Club.
"I love it so much, that I play as much as I can," Lee said. "So, I'm a full-time member of the club, and I play sometimes five days a week."
On Friday through Sunday, Lee will play in the first-ever Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championship, sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation.
"I'm just excited to participate in the tournament, so that I can help spread the word that having Parkinson's is not the end," Lee said.
The idea for the tournament started at the Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville, New York. About three years ago, musician Nenad Bach started a program at the center call PingPong Parkinson's to help people with the disease.
Bach, who lives with Parkinson's, came up with the idea for an international tournament, along with the owner of the Westchester Table Tennis Center, Will Shortz.
"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that says table tennis is especially good for Parkinson's patients, because it combines the mind and the body, and it's very fast-paced," Shortz said. "But we want to spread the word that pingpong, or table tennis, is great therapy for Parkinson's patients"
About 60 to 70 players from 11 countries will be playing in the tournament. Shortz said it's about coming together, having fun and sharing stories.
It's a theme that exists right here in Bend.
"Anybody can come and play," said Bend Table Club President Paul Sample. "We'll hit with you. and show you a few pointers if you want, or just play games or whatever."
Lee said, "It helps decline the isolation and the depression. I just love playing pingpong,"
The international tournament will be held this weekend in Pleasantville, New York at the Westchester Table Tennis Center.