In 2006, during the first football game played in New Orleans’ Superdome since Hurricane Katrina tore through the city the previous year, Steve Gleason, a safety for the Saints, blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons. The blocked punt resulted in a Saints touchdown and marked the beginning of the winningest season for the Saints up to that point. More than that, though, the blocked punt turned into a symbol for the resiliency of New Orleans. Looking at challenges Gleason has faced in his own life, it’s easy to view the blocked punt as a symbol of his own resiliency as well.
Gleason grew up in Spokane, WA, and attended Washington State University, playing football throughout his time there. He signed with the Saints in 2000 and played with them until he retired in 2008. In 2011, as he and his wife, Michel, were planning to start a family, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurological disease resulting in the inability to control muscle function. In the face of his diagnosis, his resilient spirit shone through. He has spent the years since then advocating for ALS patients through The Gleason Initiative Foundation, often called “Team Gleason.” Its goals include providing leading technology, equipment, and services to people with ALS, raising awareness about the disease, and documenting the full life Steve is committed to living, despite his illness. By documenting the adventures he’s been able to pursue, the foundation aims to help those living with ALS know they can thrive too.
Steve’s story reminds us that we all have so much to give. Sure, we may not have the platform he has, but we all have issues and causes that are important to us. During our Discovery Meetings, we ask lots of questions to get a deep sense about what’s most important to our clients, and that includes learning about what causes you care for most. We want to help you reach all of your goals, not just for retirement, but in every area of your life. If you have a big philanthropic goal, maybe a dollar figure you want to leave to a charity or the hope to retire early to have more time to volunteer for an organization, we’ll help you make it a reality.
It’s okay to start small. Annual charity events or volunteer opportunities are a great way to get your feet wet and often fit well into the hectic lives we all live. Members of the Merriman team recently volunteered at Seattle’s Downtown YMCA during their annual facility improvement week. If you live in the Spokane area, Team Gleason hosts the annual Gleason Fest, a music festival in Lilac Bowl Amphitheatre in Riverfront Park. The family-friendly event helps raise awareness for ALS while building community. They also host an annual golf tournament, which Merriman employees often attend. This year, Merriman employees raised $8,000 for the foundation and enjoyed a round of golf in sunny Spokane.
We often lose sight of how we can give back. Your commitment to charity doesn’t have to be huge and it doesn’t have to take up all of your free time. But we know from the hundreds of Discovery Meetings our advisors have had over the years that giving back is important to you, and it’s important to us.
Learn more about Steve and Team Gleason on The Gleason Initiative Foundation website and in the documentary Gleason, available on Amazon.