A sea of red and white gathered under the sunny Sunday skies to bring awareness to a serious disease.
The 18th annual 3K Central Oregon Walk to Defeat ALS saw more than 200 walkers take to the paths at Riverbend Park in Bend.
Walkers could raise money to support research for ALS, as well as local support for families dealing with the condition and the ALS ward at St. Charles Hospital.
“People are out walking today in support of people living with ALS, to support ALS research, often in memory of someone they love or because of personal connection,” said Lance Christian, the Executive Director of the ALS Association Oregon and SW Washington Chapter.
“People have the opportunity to fundraise, but mainly we want to raise awareness and make sure that people know there is support and resources available in Central Oregon.”
ALS, Christian explained, is a progressive and degenerative neuromuscular disease.
“People may lose the ability to walk, use their hands and arms, speak, swallow and breathe,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s terminal for most people in two to five years from diagnosis.
“However, there’s a lot of research going on to find new therapies and treatments for ALS, and our ALS Association is here to provide direct support for families who are dealing with this serious disease.
“Really we’re here for hope…hope for cures, and hope that people can live well with ALS.”
The organization took a few years off from the event due to the pandemic, and it was their first time putting it on in the spring.
“We wanted to avoid potential smoke and fire season in the fall,” Christian said. “But we’re so thrilled to have so many people move with us and come out in May. May is ALS awareness month, so it just seems like a great fit.”
The fundraising goal for the day was $35,000, which was quickly reached and still climbing by the time the walkers hit the park.
Still more walkers had registered online and participated from their own neighborhoods to stay COVID-safe.
“We really here are representing the whole community, literally hundreds of thousands of people here in Central Oregon who have been touched by ALS,” Christian said.
For more information about upcoming events, how to donate, or local resources, visit the association’s website here.