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'We have that disease that’s here, but we also have that hope’: Portland Walk to End Alzheimer's is personal for participants

Portland’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back in person this year. Help raise money for resources and research to find a cure Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Oregon Zoo.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Wendy Bond is ready to get moving with her team "Wendy’s Walkers" for the Portland Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She’s been doing it for three decades.

“Actually, this is year 31,” Bond said. “Every year I walk, I walk in memory of four people.”  

On Saturday, Oct. 16, she will hit the pavement again for loved ones lost to the devastating disease: her grandmother, mother, aunt and uncle.

Bond says Alzheimer’s came into her life when there was little awareness.

“In [1990] my mom was diagnosed, and that’s when I had to go to the telephone book to even figure out how to spell Alzheimer’s, just to see if there was some kind of organization that could help,” she said.

That’s where she found the Alzheimer’s Association. Since then, she has dedicated her time to helping others facing similar struggles.

“It’s very personal for me,” she said.

Currently, there are more than six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. More than 11 million people are caring for those patients without pay, according to Alzheimer’s Association research.

“It’s real isolating when you first start out and you don’t know anything about it. So it’s almost like my mission now to make sure they know what the resources are,” Bond said. “They know how to get people together. So, if you can go from isolation to community, it makes the journey a lot easier.”

The Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back in person this year. For the first time, it will be held at the Oregon Zoo.

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“The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is our signature event that we fundraise for programs and services and ultimately to provide research so we can find a cure for all Alzheimer’s and all dementia,” Walk Manager Dana Kilgus said. “Having these types of events gives people a resource to come out, meet with people who are going through some of the similar things that they’re going through with their families. and give some hope.”

Bond will feel that hope as she walks in memory of family members. She’ll wear petals of purple, the official color for Alzheimer’s, and white, for hope, uniting those who share the struggle. 

“We have that disease that’s here, but we also have that hope that one day we’ll have that survivor at that walk,” Bond said. “And if we have a lot of survivors at the walk, we may not need a walk anymore.”

The Portland Walk to End Alzheimer’s is this Saturday, October 16 at the Oregon Zoo. Registration opens at 8 a.m. Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m.

You can register the day of but for COVID safety organizers ask that you sign up beforehand. You’re also asked to wear a mask and social distance as much as possible.

You can register for the Portland walk here.

You can find more info about this and other walks around the region at act.alz.org.

RELATED: Alzheimer’s impact grows, new numbers reveal a climbing number of cases and race disparity in care

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