When the New Orleans Super Bowl host committee entertained local media earlier this month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu talked of the ability to showcase our city to a worldwide audience for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
And if that publicity brings more tourists to New Orleans, terrific. After all, tourism is our bread and butter.
But if there is a legacy to come from this Super Bowl week in the Crescent City, perhaps it will be from the inspiration of Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago this month.
Less than a year ago, Gleason asked the board of his foundation, the Gleason Initiative Foundation – a k a “Team Gleason” – to create a residential facility to help those diagnosed with ALS and other neuro-muscular disorders live more independently through technology, and to get it done within a year.
His words last spring at a meeting at the United Nations inspired those at Chase, who on Wednesday announced a $350,000 grant to the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living – which, by the way, will be up and running within Gleason’s one-year time frame.
“There are few people more inspiring than Steve,” said host committee co-chair Mary Matalin.
Added her husband and fellow co-chair, James Carville: “The foundation of New Orleans is in determination and family. We see on display here determination, family and philantrophy. This is changing real lives in a real way.”
The Team Gleason House, located on the grounds of St. Margaret’s Skilled Nursing Residence, is the second facility of its kind in the United States.
Gleason is already putting technology to work. As the disease has essentially taken away his ability to speak, he addressed the media Wednesday via computer. He “types” his words by locking his eyes on a computer-screen keyboard, then plays back his words in a voice that sounds much like he did in the early stages of the disease.
Those who have survived with ALS for decades had three things in common, according to Gleason – the right support, the right technology and purpose.
“This vision,” Gleason said of his foundation’s efforts, “will not only affect the world of ALS, but the entire world.” He expects that everyone, not just ALS patients, will be able to navigate the Internet or perform other tasks in the near future with the use of only their eyes and brain.
“One of the cornerstones of Team Gleason is to push the envelope on technology,” said former Saint and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. “And that’s what we’ve done.”
Team Gleason is the primary beneficiary of Wednesday night’s flag football team between former NFL players and wounded warriors – a group of individuals faced with a different set of challenges – at Newman’s Lupin Field.
Gleason’s blocked punt on Sept. 25, 2006, in the first game played in the Superdome after Katrina has been called this week the most significant play in the history of the franchise.
If that play helps tell Gleason’s story to more people who will continue to be inspired about finding a cause and a cure for ALS, then it should earn that honor by acclamation.
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