SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Mayor David Condon gave Steve Gleason the key to the city Saturday night during Steve's indie rock party called Gleason Fest.
Mayor Condon praised Steve's battle against the disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and Steve's efforts to raise awareness about the disease while helping to search for a cure.
After the presentation, Steve spoke to the crowd through his computerized voice, thanking Mayor Condon, the Gleason Fest sponsors and all of Spokane for helping in his fight against ALS.
Gleason was diagnosed with terminal ALS more than three years ago. He is in a wheelchair (nicknamed Hodor from the Game of Thrones character), speaks with a synthetic voice, tweets with his eyes, eats through a feeding tube and uses a tracheotomy tube to help him breathe.
He founded Team Gleason, a non-profit organization that supports the Gleason Initiative Foundation that helps to improve the lives of ALS patients, raise awareness and search for a cure.
Steve is a Spokane native who starred at linebacker at Gonzaga Prep and WSU before launching his standout special teams career for eight years with the New Orleans Saints.
His home is in New Orleans, but he still visits Spokane every summer.
This is the third year for Gleason Fest, which was started by Steve's family as both a fundraiser for the Gleason Initiative Foundation and as way to say thank you to Spokane for the city's support. Steve told the crowd on Saturday night that he will see them back here next year for Gleason Fest 2015.
Gleason Fest featured several indie rock bands from 2pm-11pm and raised $32,000 for the Gleason Initiative Foundation. The event's fundraising goal was $30,000.
Gleason Fest also featured a place to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the national ALS awareness campaign where people are doused with icy water and make donations to fight ALS. People were getting soaked throughout the day near the front entrance of Gleason Fest on Main Street off Division between Finnerty's Red Lion and the old Globe tavern.
KREM 2 Executive News Director News Director Noah Cooper also took the stage Saturday night to thank Gleason for being the catalyst behind the station's Project Inspire campaign, which tells Gleason's story, his continued good works and showcases the inspirational stories of those in the local community that honor Steve's spirit.
As part of Project Inspire Cooper completed Ironman Cd'A in June as a fundraiser for the Gleason Initiative Foundation. His race raised more than $10,000.
"My knees are shot and I couldn't swim the length of the pool without gasping for air," Cooper told the crowd on Saturday night. "Steve's example of courage and inspiration allowed me to train for 13 months so I could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26 miles."
Cooper later presented Gleason with his finisher's medal from Ironman Cd'A.