Jennifer Gonzalez Dudek wrote -
I hope that you will join me to support Steve Gleason's vow to Never Fade Quietly.
To see a glimpse of our chance encounter in Peru visit: http://www.nbcsports.com/football/nfl/steve-gleason-als-wont-make-me-quietly-fade-away
While I walk on March 21st with the Florida ALS Chapter, the funds that I raise will go directly to the Gleason Initiative Foundation. To learn more visit: www.teamgleason.org
Continue reading to understand why this cause is so important to me and the connection to Steve Gleason and Team Gleason:
In April 2013, while on an adventure in Peru, I had the opportunity to meet one of the people that inspires me the most…Steve Gleason.
Steve Gleason, a once strong and athletic NFL Saints player, was diagnosed at a very young age with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), considered a terminal neuro-muscular disease.
Steve vowed to inspire others by continuing to pursue life adventures despite his diagnosis. Steve is on a journey and with the help of his friends and family he created Team Gleason. Team Gleason brings public awareness toward ALS by providing and documenting extraordinary life adventures for individuals with muscular diseases or injuries.
The day before our chance encounter, I had braved the steep, slippery, and scary journey up Huayna Picchu. Huaynu Picchu overlooks Machu Picchu and is high above the clouds. The ultimate goal for me wasn’t to climb to see the view below. My goal was to climb wearing my Team Gleason shirt and send Steve Gleason the picture so that he would know how he has inspired me to overcome fears, take adventures in life, and to cherish all moments with my family and friends. Although he was a complete stranger, his life story and his drive to live life to the fullest despite his disease, had inspired me.
The Team Gleason organization motto is “No White Flags” and that day I wore my “No White Flags” shirt for Steve. While my fear of heights was overwhelming, my desire to show my support of Team Gleason was stronger. I tried a few times to give up during the climb and Tommy would remind me that I had to reach a little further for Steve.
In a moment of pure serendipity, the night after our climb while at dinner, who would come into the restaurant but Steve Gleason and the Team Gleason family. Team Gleason had successfully planned adventures for ALS patients to white water raft in Italy, cruise the Panama Canal, canoe the Missouri River, attend sporting and music events, and of the most epic -a trip to Machu Picchu. Over tears and laughs, Team Gleason welcomed Tommy and I into the family. I shared my pictures of the climb and how Steve had inspired me. I would later find out how I inspired Steve that day to continue on his adventure. The moment seems unreal but it reinforces that we are all meant to be at a certain place and time in life. Our chance encounter is proof.
Steve Gleason has taught the world that people with ALS (pALS) don’t have to accept their assumed limitations. There is no known cure for ALS. It is a scary disease that slowly steals all aspects of your life. Laughing, walking, talking, eating, breathing becomes difficult and sometimes impossible. If we can continue to expand medical research, technology, and therapies, we can help pALS and their families in dealing with aspects of this disease. The ultimate goal is one day finding a cure.