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Portland Marathon: Local team runs to support Canby nonprofit Thelma's Place

The group raises money for an organization that supports people who suffer from memory loss.


by: COURTESY PHOTO - Curtis Porter, the son of Jill Porter, wears his 2012 Portland Marathon shirt and showcases his medal. The Porters compete in the event to support Thelma's Place, a Canby nonprofit.As Jill Porter awaits the arrival of her team of runners, she peruses through a collection of long-sleeved shirts and gold medallions. Each one commemorates completion of the Portland Marathon, now in its 43rd year.

Jill has competed in the last four marathons and recently completed her fifth Oct. 6 with a team of five runners she recruited to help raise funds for Thelma’s Place, a local nonprofit that supports adults and families affected by memory loss.

Members of her team, which includes Jake Haggin, Briana Haggin, Anna Yakis and Genie Shadrin, start trickling in and chat about their previous experiences running the marathon before they make the trip to Portland to pick up their bibs.

Jake, Briana and Genie joined Jill and her son Curtis team for the first time last year, joining a cast of runners that cycle in and out of Jill’s team on a regular basis. Jill and Curtis have been the most frequent marathon runners. Past team members include Jackie Barnes and Danette Henrich in 2011, and Whitney Prieger in 2012.

Yakis, who is in her third year of running the marathon, heard of the event through Porter and was quick to participate.

“I said ‘Oh my gosh, sign me up!” she said.

The next year, Yakis recruited Shadrin to the team, and the two quickly took to running on a regular basis.

“This kid roped me into a 5K,” Shadrin said, “and then we just did a marathon.”

“Yeah, that escalated quickly,” Yakis said.

All but Prieger returned from last year’s team to race this year and were excited to try it again despite unfavorable conditions during the 2012 marathon.

“Last year, it was 100 degrees,” Porter said. “My team was practically naked. No one wanted to wear their jackets.”

The jackets are lightweight, black zip-up coats with the Thelma’s Place logo embroidered over the left breast. On the back of the coats is a list of 26 sponsors from throughout the region. Each sponsor contributed $100 to Porter’s team to help pay for marathon registration fees and donate to Thelma’s Place, which operates four days a week from its building in downtown Canby.

Thelma’s Place opened its doors in 2011 thanks to founder Eric Berkey, who lives in Hubbard, and has been an open door to help people and families affected by dementia, Alzheimer’s and memory loss.

“It gives these people a place to come, to be with other people and to have meaning in their lives,” Berkey said. “Eighty-thousand Oregonians have Alzheimer’s, and that number is going up.”

Porter works as a marketing consultant and was approached by Berkey to come up with a way to support Thelma’s Place. She agreed to help, provided she was allowed to do it her own unique way, and she came up with the idea to run the Portland Marathon for sponsorships from businesses and individuals in the community.

What started as a handful of donations at first has grown over the years to the point that Porter is running out of room on the back of the commemorative jackets. For next year’s team, she is thinking of asking for larger donations instead of more donations, but with a year before then, she has plenty of time to plan her sixth race.

In the meantime, Porter and Berkey, along with many members on staff at Thelma’s Place, will be focused on the organization’s coming silent auction and dinner event in February at the Willamette Valley Country Club. Berkey invites people to make donations or purchase tickets by going to www.thelmasplace.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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