Birthday inspires teacher's $37K for 37 ALS challenge



Posted on January 23, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 24 at 5:13 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. – A Spokane teacher and good friend of Steve Gleason is showing how much Spokane cares about the fight against ALS by using the number Gleason wore in the NFL
Gleason lost his mobility to ALS. The Spokane native tries to live by the motto, “life isn’t easy, but it’s awesome.” Gleason wore number 37 for the New Orleans Saints when he played in the NFL. The number now represents the Gleason Initiative Foundation, which he created to improve the lives of people who are also living with the disease.

His friend, Grady Emmerson, has created a challenge that was sparked by his own 37th birthday.

“I was just thinking 37. That number is kind of magical because that’s Steve’s number in New Orleans,” said Emmerson.

Emmerson is dedicating his 37th year to number 37. His goal is to raise $37,000 for Team Gleason to continue its life-improving work.
“I think a thousand people at $37 would do a lot, you know,” said Emmerson.

Emmerson said this is the least he could do for his friend.

Emmerson met Gleason when he joined the Washington State University Football team.

“I distinctly remember one of the first practices, this guy just bee-bopping around and singing. We hit it off immediately. And really ever since it’s just been a great relationship,” said Emmerson.

Emmerson was there the day Gleason married the love of his life. He could always count on Gleason to celebrate his milestones too.

He was finishing his school day, about three years ago, when Gleason called with heartbreaking news.

“He kind of starts to break down and he tells me he has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. And I had no idea what it was,” said Emmerson. “So while I’m on the phone, and it’s getting very emotional,  and I don’t know why, and I’m literally Googling on my computer while I’m on the phone. And the first line I read is ‘average life expectancy three to five years.’” 

Gleason has been set on living. He wants to help other ALS patients do the same through his Gleason Initiative Foundation. The foundation helps provide helps provide people with technology to help them communicate. It also provides extraordinary life adventures to people with ALS.

Emmerson was part of a team who embarked on life-changing fishing trip to Hells Canyon with Gleason and a Post Falls man diagnosed with a neuromuscular condition. The trip is just one of the many eye opening Team Gleason adventures to help patients understand they can still engage in life.

“It’s emotional, but it’s a good emotional,” said Emmerson.

If you would like to help him and Team Gleason, click here. The $37K for 37 had raised $12,968 as of January 23.