“Grieving for a loved one is the highest honor we can give that loved one. Even when there’s a huge missing part of our lives, our grieving becomes a bridge of love to the future.”

It was those words from June Cannon, while addressing the crowd Saturday morning at the 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, that resonated loudly with those in attendance. The walk itself was held at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center.

Cannon knows all too well the effects of Alzheimer’s. Her husband, Col. (Ret.) John Cannon, was afflicted with the disease, and June realized she would have to educate herself as much as possible about the illness. Those words were from a book she had been given by Mitch Rivers, from Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home, but its powerful message rippled through the audience, many who’ve been personally touched by the disease. Col. John Cannon died on Sept. 14, 2012. Both of the Cannon daughters were with their father when he passed away.

“One of my daughters said, ‘My daddy’s at rest. He doesn’t have Alzheimer’s anymore,’” said June. “Those words lay the groundwork for our healing.”

A sea of purple T-shirts and large plastic flowers with different colored pedals – symbolic of the importance of caregivers, and their roles in helping those impacted with the disease – swelled in the infield of the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center track.

“This is an amazing day,” said Ashton Houghton, Alzheimer’s Association vice president of development of communications, South Carolina Chapter. “This is the biggest walk Aiken has ever had, not only because of the amount of people who are here, but also the funds that are being raised for the Alzheimer’s Association. We have over 300 people here, and we’re probably going to be raising close to $50,000.”

A proclamation was read by Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, recognizing the disease as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The proclamation also read that the steps being made by organizations like the Azlheimer’s Association and its mission are doing their part to reclaim the future by raising awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support and advanced critical research.

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Baugh won the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award for making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry.