Today I am excited to introduce a new segment to www.scottdrotar.com. I know that there are people that can motivate and teach you things that I cannot. So from time to time, I will be introducing you to some of the people who inspire me and giving them Honorary Roll Model status. In order to receive this prestigious title, you must meet the following criteria: 1) You must be physically disabled and in a wheelchair 2) You must live life in such a way that promotes awareness of disabilities and 3) You must live your life in agreement with Roll Models and its mission. If this committee of one deems you to meet the above criteria, you will be given the title of Honorary Roll Model.
The first individual to be inducted into this exclusive club was featured in a very powerful commercial during the Superbowl.
This man’s name is Steve Gleason. Steve played 8 seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. On the field he is remembered for returning a blocked punt in the opening quarter of the Saints first home game after Hurricane Katrina. As good as he was on the field though, what he accomplished off the field is much more impressive. Through his “One Sweet World Foundation,” he provided over 7,000 backpacks full of school supplies to children affected by Hurricane Katrina. He has also donated his hair to “Locks of Love,” and he was a frequent visitor to children’s hospitals in New Orleans. It turns out though, that he was just getting started.
In January 2011, Steve was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This degenerative, neuromuscular disease, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, destroys the motor neurons that allow your brain to control your muscles. Eventually this leads to paralysis, the inability to speak, and breathing issues that often result in death. Making this disease even more difficult to deal with is that it can manifest so late in life, as it did with Steve. He has had to sit back and watch as his body goes from the prototype of physical health, to being a cage that he is trapped in. I have always considered myself fortunate that I was disabled from birth, because I cannot imagine knowing life as an able bodied adult and losing it. I cannot fathom how hard that must be, but Steve has taken it in stride.
Steve has met this challenge head on, and he has done his best to make the most of his situation. On the public scale, he has started the “Gleason Initiative Foundation” to raise awareness and work to find a cure for ALS. He has also created the “Team Gleason House For Innovative Living,” which is one of only two houses of its kind, that is completely decked out with the latest technology to allow people with ALS to live full lives. You can learn more about these endeavors at www.teamgleason.org. He has also been a large proponent of showing how technology can be developed to greatly improve the quality of life of many disabled people.
As impressive and commendable as his acts of altruism have been publicly, I think what he has done in his private life is perhaps even more special. In October of 2011, 10 months after being diagnosed, Steve and his wife had their first child, Rivers. As a means to show her the amazing man he is, he is creating a video journal that captures his incredible spirit. He also frequently writes about his life, some of which he shares on his website. He continues to lead a full, happy life on his terms despite the obstacles he now faces. He has taken something that would cause most people to give up, and used it to create something that is to be admired and learned from. He is someone who I draw inspiration from, and I hope you can as well. That is why it is my pleasure to make Steve Gleason the first Honorary Roll Model.