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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Steve Gleason providing inspiration

By Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- They’re having a Super Bowl here Sunday, but the best show of the week came Wednesday afternoon.

Adults cried tears of sorrow and joy, reporters violated the time-honored tradition of not clapping at news conferences and a clear winner emerged.

That was Team Gleason -- and, by extension, someday maybe the whole world.

Steve Gleason
Former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is suffering from amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), leads a tour through Team Gleason House.
The setting was the formal announcement that Chase has donated $350,000 to the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living. Team Gleason starts with Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints player who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, but likely added scores of more members with the emotional ceremony.

“This is an effort bigger than me, the blocked punt, the city of New Orleans and the Super Bowl ... bigger than football,’’ Gleason said using voice technology powered by his eyes.

Technology is the key to what Gleason and his team are doing. They’re building a facility for people with ALS that will be stocked with the latest in technology.

“It will allow them to be productive and to live with purpose,’’ Gleason said.

The living with purpose part is central to all this. Gleason and former teammate Scott Fujita, who lost an uncle to the disease 17 years ago, said that too many people have given up after receiving an ALS diagnosis.

“This is a disease that for far too long has been ignored and underfunded,’’ Fujita said. “That’s unacceptable.’’

That pretty much was the attitude Gleason took when he received his diagnosis.

“I did not want to fade away quietly,’’ Gleason said.

There’s no way that’s going to happen. Gleason is a New Orleans icon. That was assured the moment he made a critical punt block in the first game the Saints played in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“At that moment, we transformed ourselves from losers to winners,’’ New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

But Gleason’s link to the city he called home has become even stronger since the public became aware of his illness. Gleason has become a point of pride for an entire region because of the courage he’s shown. But he wants to be more than that.

“I believe this can be done regionally, nationally and even globally,’’ Gleason said.

After sitting there and listening to Gleason and his team talk about their plans, I have no doubt that’s possible. In fact, I believe Gleason’s work will have a global impact.

Team Gleason’s slogan is “Inspiring Innovation."

The innovation part is impressive. The inspiration part might be even more impressive.