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On Sunday, a crowd will gather in Bozeman to call for a cure for the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and the 14 million predicted to have the disease by 2050.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

Nearly 200 people have signed up to walk in Bozeman on Sunday. The event will begin at the Bozeman Pond Pavilion at 700 South Fowler Lane at 2:30 p.m.

Valerie Jahner first joined Bozeman’s walk last year. Her dad was one of the estimated 20,000 Montanans living with a form of dementia.

“It was almost overwhelming in that all of a sudden I was surrounded by people who had been through the same journey,” Jahner said. “You’re facing what’s in your family, publicly, and at that moment you realize, I’m not alone as far as finding resources, friends and support.”

Jahner is now the association’s walk manager for the Montana chapter.

So far, the Bozeman event has raised $67,500 — more than $1,000 beyond the association’s goal, according to the event’s page.

The day will start with a ceremony at 2:30 p.m., which will include stories from people impacted by the disease and statements from city and state leaders.

Each person in the crowd will receive a flower to hold with a color based on their connection to the illness: whether they have the disease, are a caregiver, lost someone or hope to see its cure.

Jahner could hold a purple flower for her dad. He died last month, two years after his diagnosis.

Or she could take a yellow flower for the aunts and uncles on both sides of her family who live with dementia.

One person in the crowd will hold a white flower.

“Which represents hope and the first survivor, which we haven’t had yet,” Jahner said. “We hope that someday all the other flowers will go away and we’ll just have white flowers.”

She said while the day is emotional, it’s also a time for people to celebrate the support they can find together. Some wear shirts with the name of someone they lost while others dye their hair purple for the day.

The Bozeman High marching band will kick off the walk at 3 p.m.

Jahner said the less than 2-mile walk is free and open to anyone. Those who can’t or don’t want to walk can join for the day by the pond, where there will be live music and some performances.

“If they just want to come and enjoy the afternoon with us, that’s wonderful,” Jahner said. “We just want everybody to come if they would like to.”

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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