Pinwheels of different colored flowers spun in the early morning breeze on a sunny Sunday at Corporate Woods in Overland Park.
Each color of the Promise Flowers had special meaning. Yellow was for people supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Purple was for those who lost someone to the disease. Orange was for people who support the cause for a world without Alzheimer’s. And blue was for those who have the disease.
“We are here to honor those individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or to remember those individuals with Alzheimer’s disease that we have lost,” said Juliette Bradley, director of communications for Alzheimer’s Association — Heart of America Chapter. “We’re all here for the same reason — that’s to find an end to Alzheimer’s.”
The flowers spun as 5,000 to 6,000 people walked 1 or 3 miles at the office park near U.S. 69 and Interstate 435 for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The walk, which raises funds and awareness about the disease, is one of 600 such community walks across the country.
“The big message here is that you are not alone,” Bradley said. “Alzheimer’s disease could be a disease of isolation. We don’t want that.”
Marshaun Butler of Grandview formed a team called Sammy’s Village made up of family and friends to walk in honor of Samantha Butler, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009.
“We feel so strong about ending this terrible disease,” she said. “We are just happy to be here to celebrate Samantha and to celebrate all those who are struggling with this disease.”
Dealing with the disease has been difficult for everyone, Butler said.
“As a group, we are standing strong, and we’re raising funds to go into research and eradicating this disease because we know the devastation that it can cause to not only the individual but to also the families,” she said.
Patty McGreggor of Lee’s Summit wrote the name of her father on a yellow flower to “bring him hope and sunshine” because he has Alzheimer’s. McGreggor attended the walk to raise money to help fund a cure.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” McGreggor said of the crowd that had gathered for the walk. “It warms our hearts. It makes you feel good. It’s emotional too — very emotional to see that so many people care.”
Barbara Klusman of Olathe was walking for several family members who have the disease or who have died from it, including her husband, Jim Klusman, who died three years ago this coming January.
“The year he (her husband) died, we came out and walked and three months later we lost him,” Klusman said. “This was his last party. He was out supporting, too, and watching with us.”
With all the family members who have been touched by the disease, she said, they felt compelled to be out raising money to find a cure.
Klusman was surrounded with family members, who had formed a team and were wearing a team T-shirt. The message on the back of the shirt, “Just another day in paradise,” was attributed to Papa Jim. That was one of his favorite expressions — one he would greet the kids with.
“He loved life, and he loved being outside,” she said. “And if the sun was shining, he would say, ‘It’s another day in paradise.’ And he meant it.”