Brothers engage in friendly Walk rivalry to honor father

Brothers Mike and John Dunbar are walking in honor of their father Bill Dunbar who died in 2010.

Judge William Dunbar

The honorable judge
In 2006 William (also known as Bill) Dunbar, a retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge, and his wife met with their children to let them know that Bill had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “He had noticed more and more memory problems,” recalled his youngest son, John. “He was keenly aware of the possibility of something more going on since his mother suffered from what used to be called senility.”

Bill and his wife Joan

Bill’s wife was his full-time caregiver until 2008 when he moved into a local care facility. Peter, Bill’s oldest son, was instrumental in helping his dad transition to the facility. “Pete had just started his job as the Chief of Police, which was close to Dad’s facility,” recalls Mike, Bill’s middle son. “Pete was able to visit frequently which helped dad and the staff get more comfortable with each other.”

Bill lived in the facility until his passing in 2010. However, nine years later his sons, Peter, Mike and John, continue to honor his memory.

John brings Walk to Yountville
John Dunbar is currently the mayor of Yountville, CA, where the Napa Valley Walk has been held since it began seven years ago. “I was surprised when I was first approached about hosting a Walk in Napa County,” recalls John. “There was no question, I was going to make this happen.”

Mayor John Dunbar

For many caregivers, finding services and providers can be difficult. John wants to help bring families and services together. “The biggest challenge my family had was not knowing how to find help and information,” shares John. “I wanted to bring the Walk to Yountville to make sure people could get access to the help that is available to them.”

The Napa Valley Walk continues to grow both in participation and fundraising. John is proud to have the opportunity to share his story and help kick off the Walk from the stage.

Mike volunteers with the East Bay Walk committee
Mike Dunbar, lives on the other side of the Bay Area from his brother John, but this doesn’t stop him from supporting his local walk, the East Bay Walk.

Mike Dunbar

Mike has been raising funds and walking for six years. This year he decided to do something more and became the co-chair for the Walk’s Team Retention Subcommittee. “I don’t know how I got on the committee,” jokes Mike. “I was just told to show up one Saturday, but it has been fun.”

Mike and his fellow co-chair contact past walkers and remind them to sign up for this year’s Walk. “A lot of this job is making phone calls and sending emails,” says Mike. “We remind people not to wait but to register now.” 

A friendly rivalry between brothers
For these brothers, Walk season wouldn’t be any fun without a healthy dose of competition. Mike jokes, “we have a friendly rivalry for just about everything.”

Team vs. Team
Mike’s team “Honor His Honor,” is a nod to their father’s profession as a judge. “I think my dad would like that title,” said Mike. “It’s a lot better title than whatever John’s team has.” John registers for Walk as an individual walker, so he doesn’t have a team name. For now, Mike has the winning team name in the family unless Peter, who lives in Evergreen, Colorado, forms a team with a better name for the Denver Walk.

Money raised vs. donated
Mike and John both contribute funds to their respective Walks. Mike focuses on asking others to donate, while John prefers to donate both his time as the emcee for the Walk as well as a personal donation.

“This is where you really get to see the brother rivalry,” John jokes. “Mike wants me to donate to his team to increase his total. I say thanks but no thanks, I’m going to support the one in Yountville.”

Mike held a Walk fundraiser at a winery. “The winery encourages nonprofits to invite people to come for a tasting,” says Mike. “Then they donate the tasting fee to the organization. I raised $700 this year.”

Mike also asks for donations from friends and family. “Our aunt that lives in Yountville donates to me, but she walks in the Napa Valley Walk,” teases Mike.

Rivalry aside, both brothers are proud of each other for the work they’ve done in support of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Bill Dunbar and his sons, Peter, Michael and John

Different Walks, but a shared experience
While John and Mike Walk on different days in different locations, they share a similar perspective. They both appreciate the importance of being with a group of people who have gone through a similar experience.

“The most impactful part is when people are sharing their stories and the flowers are being raised,” John shares, “but the most fun part is getting to know people as you walk along the route. It’s nice that we’re able to gather together and have that common awareness.”

Mike shares his favorite part: “just being there and being with other people who understand the struggle of caring for a loved one who’s gone through radical changes. It’s good to be the person who ‘gets it’ for someone else.”

You can join Mayor John Dunbar at the Napa Valley Walk on September 14 in Yountville and/or walk with Mike Dunbar in the East Bay Walk on October 26 in San Ramon. Start your team today at alz.org/walk.

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