Reese Witherspoon, Courteney Cox, Renée Zellweger, More Come Together at L.A.'s Walk to Defeat ALS to Support Publicist Friend

"So many people are living all over the U.S. and all over the world with this terrible, devastating disease," Reese Witherspoon says

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Several of Hollywood’s leading ladies came together to support publicist Nanci Ryder at the 13th annual L.A. County Walk to Defeat ALS on Sunday.

Reese Witherspoon and Courteney Cox, along with a fresh-from-London René Zellweger, made up “Team Nanci” for the charity walk.

The trio posed for photos with Ryder – whom Witherspoon calls “incredible” – at the Exposition Park event, and brought along family members for the walk.

Ryder, who suffers from the disease, was in good spirits but emotional as she chatted with her PR colleagues and famous friends.

“There’s so much that happens to people in life, but it’s the way that you deal with it, and she’s such, to me, someone that I really admire for the way that they handle things with levity, as much humor as she could possibly muster at any moment,” Witherspoon, who was joined by husband Jim Toth and daughter Ava Phillippe at the event, tells PEOPLE of Ryder. “And also, just complete grace.”

The Oscar-winning actress, 39, adds that when Ryder was first diagnosed with ALS, the pair “cried for, like, two hours.”

“So many people are living all over the U.S. and all over the world with this terrible, devastating disease,” she says. “We’ve got to get to the root of where it comes from. Not just deal with the symptoms, like really get to the root of it.”

Zellweger, 46, who says she values the way Ryder has been using her experience to “raise awareness” about the fight to end ALS, adds that the disease “affects all of us.”

“One in a hundred people over the age of 40 will be diagnosed with this disease,” she tells PEOPLE, adding, “I mean, there’s not anybody who doesn’t know somebody who’s been affected by ALS or a motor neuron disease.”

Cox, 51, who notes she’s known Ryder since 1986, says being “part of” the ALS community makes her “so happy.”

“I have a lot of hope. There’s a lot of great new things that are being worked on,” she tells PEOPLE. “There is some promising, I don’t know, research. I just hope it all works out.”

VIDEO: Watch Miley Cyrus’ Transformation from Disney Days to VMAs

Miley Cyrus also attended the event, making a surprise appearance on the walk’s main stage with Pilates instructor Mari Winsor, who also has ALS.

The “Wrecking Ball” singer helped Winsor and her team lead an impromptu Pilates workout to Pharrell’s hit single “Happy.”

Reporting By SCOTT HUVER

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