It rained early, but there was nothing the weather could do to put a damper on the 2nd annual Gleason Gras, a charity event put on by the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and Team Gleason to raise money and awareness of ALS.
Unless you've been living on the bottom of the ocean for the past couple of years, you know Steve Gleason and his story. The goal of his foundation is simple, though. To show people that their diagnosis isn't the end, and in fact, could very well be the beginning. Sending ALS patients on the adventures of a lifetime is the goal, not only to change their lives but the lives of the people around them. It's a simple yet amazing concept. Just watch this trailer to get a better idea:
I had the pleasure of watching that documentary at the premiere with Team Gleason and crew and I'm not ashamed to admit I was crying like a 12 year old girl. It was a night of crazy mixed emotions. You're happy, you're sad- you hate how cruel life can be. But at the very same time you realize how beautiful life can be. I know that sounds really corny, but the sad fact is that it often takes something like this for us to live to our full potential. Not that Steve ever had that problem, but for many ALS patients this is a once in a lifetime deal. A once in a lifetime journey to see what this world really has to offer, to see what life is all about. And that's exactly the point- to raise awareness of this awful disease by doing what Steve did best, and changing people's lives at the same time.
Having had the pleasure of getting to know Steve Gleason (and family and friends- the most dedicated and loving people on the planet) I can honestly say he is one of the coolest and most selfless and most genuine people I have ever met. When you see first hand the devastation that ALS causes, it can be overwhelming even for the onlooker. It's a cruel disease...your body slowly shuts down around you, all while your eyesight and brain aren't affected at all. You are completely aware of what's going on around you, trapped in your own prison that used to be your body. I can't even imagine...can't even begin to empathize.
But Steve Gleason wears his fate with a smile on his face, still enjoying every bit of what life has to offer. He's figured it out...and it's a pretty simple formula: surround yourself with people you love. Whatever God you believe in, whatever afterlife you think we are all destined to face, it's hard to believe that Steve Gleason was not put here with a purpose. His love of life and people simply transcends what most of us are capable of realizing. If there's one good thing to come out of this tragedy it is the fact that I really believe that people's lives will be changed by this man.
We humans complain about the smallest of things, and I am no exception. But when you see Steve Gleason and his family and crew of friends, and they have the best attitude in the world, and I mean a real, genuine love of life, your crap seems so petty you're ashamed of yourself. But that's not the point, to feel ashamed. The point is to live, and love while doing so. He simply leads by example.
Perhaps Chris Rose said it best: "His is a story for the ages. A story for all ages. The ultimate story not of how to die, but how to live."
It's certainly not fair, but awesome ain't easy! No White Flags!
Hit play and scroll...
Rain put a damper on things early, but it cleared up quite nicely.
The original bounty hunter.
Trust me, it got much more crowded.
A bit of rain ain't stopping Steve and crew from enjoying some music.
The Pussyfooters doin' their thing.
Most of the Saints came and went, but Drew hung around until the last interview was over and the last sharpie ran out of ink. He couldn't have been any nicer about it. And trust me, if you saw the circus around him you'd understand how annoying it could get. He's a class act- it simply doesn't get any better.
Drew, Steve, and Mike McCready (lead guitarist of Pearl Jam, in case you were wondering) catch up.
Love the kids in this picture.
Steve and Garrett Hartley.
Let the auction begin.
Fixin' the mohawk.
Steve and Thomas Morstead of the Saints, another super awesome guy.
Ryan Anderson and Austin Rivers of the Hornets stopped by to judge the mustache competition.
They're gonna be really good this year.
Steve and interim head coach Joe Vitt.
The one and only Whistle Monster. I promise you, this dude could pop your ear drums if he wanted to.
I was also very honored to meet Robert X. Fogarty of Dear New Orleans & Dear World. I've been following his stuff for quite some time and have loved his photos of people and their simple messages. His awesome idea spread from humble beginnings in New Orleans to literally all over the world. He couldn't have been a nicer guy. You should definitely check out his stuff here.
Garrett Hartley writes on the hand of Thomas Morstead's new fiance. Congrats!
Hartley grabs a pic on his phone.
Forget Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and Steve Gleason. Rivers was the most popular man in the room. Can't get much cuter than that.
This might be my favorite photo of the day.
The media awaits Sean Payton's arrival.
The 610 Stompers get some new socks.
"The only one who can tell you you can't is you. And you don't have to listen."
Mike McCready gets in on the action.
Mike McCready, long time friend of the Gleason's, played with almost every single band that night (at least that I saw). Talk about an awesome guy...he got out there, not knowing the songs, and rocked anyway. Respect. Bustin' out the Pearl Jam albums as we speak.
Introducing Trombone Shorty.
Frenchy doin' his thing.
No White Flags.
Preparing everyone to have their faces melted off...
John Michael adds to the noise.
My ears are still ringing, no joke.