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Pandemic, rain didn’t stop this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneColored flowers at the Alzheimer's Walk at US Celluar Park in Medford Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAlzheimer's asareness supporters walk in the rain over Bear Creek at US Celluar Park in Medford Saturday.

Rain didn’t dampen the resolve of about 50 residents who participated Saturday morning in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford.

Each participant held a large colorful plastic flower with a bud that twirled when the breeze came. The flowers were placed in sections of grass at the park where the walk was staged.

The presentation at the park was like a well laid-out garden with signs explaining the specific meaning of each flower color -- also each holder’s reason for being there.

-- Blue flowers indicate that the holders are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

-- Yellow flowers are to show that the holder supports or cares for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

-- Purple flowers were held by people who lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease.

-- Orange flowers are held by people who support the cause and share the association’s vision of “a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

Trish Sams, of Central Point, was a volunteer this year and has walked in these events for about 15 years. Her grandmother on her father’s side of the family had Alzheimers and died in 2005. Sams had walked for the first time in 2004 in honor of her grandmother, whom she lovingly referred to as her “granny.”

The next Alzhemier’s walk was soon after that loss for Sams and her family in 2005.

“It was emotional. I almost didn’t want to do it because it was so fresh,” Sams said.

But she did. And she took her then-infant daughter, Trinity Sams, with her that year.

Trinity is now in college. Sams said her daughter remembers her “granny” through pictures and video.

This year, she walked with her two younger children, Presley Sams, 7, and Sawyer Sams, 4. Each member of the Sams family carried umbrellas in shades that coordinated with their flowers.

Abby Reddy held a yellow flower. One of the people walking with her was Kasey Graue.

Reddy, a physical therapist, said her stepfather was in the advanced stage of dementia and that her mother was his caregiver. Graue is a speech therapist.

Both women are from Medford and say that 15 to 20% of their patients have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Reddy said she wanted to show support for her family. Graue said they were also there “for our patients.”

During a ceremony held before the walk started, Danielle Craig, who hosts a podcast titled “Happiness in Progress,” explained what the goal is for all involved with this effort.

Craig said like flowers, the participants in the walk don’t stop when something is in their way: “They keep raising funds and awareness for a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

The goal is to see progress reach the point when someone survives Alzheimer’s or dementia. It will be celebrated with a white flower in the garden, she said.

Last year’s walk was a virtual event because of COVID-19. Walkers were asked this year to take precautions during the event to avoid spreading the virus, such as keeping at least six feet apart.

Many people were also wearing face masks.

More than 600 communities across the country hold these events to raise awareness as well as funds to aid in care, support and research into this and other forms of dementia.

The local chapter of the Alzheimer Association had raised nearly $47,500 as of Saturday. Its annual fundraising target is $60,000.

To donate, visit alz.org/walk. Enter your local zip code to have the donation go to the local chapter.