Alzheimers is relentless, but so are we.
That was the message at the Central Oregon Walk to End Alzheimers on Sunday.
More than 300 people gathered at Riverbend Park in Bend to support the cause, honor their loved ones and raise awareness.
The Alzheimers Association holds 600 walks nationally each year to raise money for research and to connect families with local resources.
For some, the event was very personal.
“My father Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2013 at the age of 58, and my mom Audrey and my Uncle Scott acted as his caregivers the whole time,” said Jennifer Chance, the chair of the walk planning committee. “He became free from his fight with Alzheimers last November of 2021.”
In Oregon alone, there are 69,000 people living with Alzheimers.
“Those are just the people who have received a diagnosis,” said walk manager Kaitlyn Bertholet. “We know there are people out there who have not received a diagnosis yet, and we just want to make sure that people have the support and resources available to them.”
Participants carried orange flowers if they were advocates for a world without Alzheimers, purple flowers if they had lost a loved one to the disease, and blue flowers if they were personally living with Alzheimers.
Chance said it’s important for people to know that Alzheimers is not a normal form of aging.
“It’s very much a brain disease. When your brain doesn’t work, you don’t work,” she said. “That could mean anything from not being able to tie your shoes, to in the later stages, not being able to swallow. It also means you watch your loved one slip away, their personality slowly goes, they’re not able to necessarily always communicate their needs to you, let alone have a conversation with you and we noticed that with my dad as well. I am here today to honor my dad and his legacy, and the love that he left us with, the love that he built.”
She said she also wanted to honor the millions of unpaid caregivers who support their family members through the disease.
There are 130,000 of those caregivers in Oregon alone.
“We’re really proud to be the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimers and dementia-related research,” Bertholet said. “One day we want there to be treatment and prevention options and a cure, ultimately.”
Central Oregon Daily’s Emily Kirk acted as one of the emcees for the event.
By Sunday evening, they had nearly reached their $90,000 fundraising goal for the day.
The Alzheimers Association offers a 24/7 help line at 800-272-3900 where people can ask questions and receive guidance and support. They also offer local education classes and support groups. For more information, visit alz.org.