Press

The Magic of New Orleans

January 2024
by Scott Craig

I have been to a lot of places in my life, but New Orleans is now my favorite city and only beats out Rome, because it’s right in my backyard! Once we landed, the Big Easy vibe and hospitality was everywhere. Emily, from Team Gleason, had arranged transportation and hotel for me and my caregivers, including having a Hoyer lift delivered to my room ahead of time. Very nice touch!

Since we arrived late, we opted for delivery, Cajun style, and got jambalaya and shrimp etouffee that was incredible and a teaser of what was to come! What happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans, but I can tell you a few of the PG-13 details.

After breakfast at Mothers, we visited the World War Two museum and it was incredible! Very impressive and a great way to spend a rainy morning. Once the clouds parted it was time to head over to Bourbon Street and see what the fuss was about. Since we were there to see my Detroit Lions play the Saints, it was so much fun seeing so many Lions fans enjoying the party. I even brought some Lions beads for my crew!

The music was amazing and calling from every open door! A few people came up to take pictures with me and I was mistaken for “The Man Himself “ Steve Gleason, many times. Probably because we’re both so incredibly handsome! But we introduced ourselves and made new friends everywhere we went. For a quadriplegic, I always feel a little vulnerable, especially in a new place, but everyone was so kind and respectful that we had the time of our lives. Between Lions fans, Saints fans, and people just being generous, I don’t think I paid for a drink all weekend.

The next day, Sunday, was more of the same! As we walked to the Superdome, the crowds grew larger and the excitement was palpable. And still the hospitality continued ! Go here, go there, cut in line and make way… and then we were in! So much fun ! We immediately set out to find the Steve Statue and walked all the way around the stadium (only to realize we were right next to it and looking the wrong way) duh. But we found it and bonded a little with the city and The Man Himself and took a few pictures. Since we were guests I won’t spend any time gloating about the Lions, but WOW, what a great game!

Then we had dinner at some ridiculously cool restaurant called Muriel’s. Over the top great! Ran to catch the last jazz cruise of the weekend and had the boat to ourselves. Just beautiful! Absolutely stunning, and the Irish coffees were pretty good too.

As we wandered around trying (not very hard) to get back to our hotel, we found a hole in the wall bar called the Chart Room and I insisted on a night cap. Turns out the lions fans had the same idea and we started making more new friends! To top off the trip in a way that only New Orleans could manage, a local guy went to grab his guitar and we sat on the sidewalk with a beverage and listened to one of the greatest guitarists I have ever heard.

Amen!

Thanks, Emily for putting this together.
Thank you, Steve and Team Gleason for the opportunity.
Thank you, New Orleans for showing us the true meaning of southern hospitality!

Gratefully,

Scott Craig

Typed with my eyes

Adventure Details:

FLIGHT: American Airlines, Tulsa → Dallas → New Orleans

LODGING: Residence Inn New Orleans French Quarter | Mobility Accessible Room with Roll-in Shower

Scott’s Adventure to John-Boy’s Place

June 2024
by Scott Kicklighter

A huge thank you to Team Gleason for providing this adventure for Scott, my husband, and me.

11 years ago, all I knew about Lou Gehrig’s disease is that he had one – that’s all. Fast forward one year and my 19-year-old baby was being diagnosed with ALS.

We have chosen to remain his caretakers until the end. He has always wanted to fly in a plane (his favorite part, not so much mine), and loves to sit on the porch. Leslie, who owns John-Boys Place has thought of everything! There wasn’t anything that we did that he couldn’t do.

As caregivers to folks with ALS, we go 24 hours a day while trying not to leave our other kids, homes, and obligations out. After a few years (Scott is an anomaly – this is year 10 with his diagnosis and he has progressed rapidly this year), you get used to little sleep, brain fog, never sitting down and the list goes on. You forget how to relax.

I’d suggest you make the trip. Maybe make it in the spring or fall, because it can get hot, but make it. Everything you could need is there and your person with ALS can participate in most of it. We fished from the shore, played games on the screened porch, and had the best time watching the birds! We reconnected not as caregivers, but as a family. My only regret was his sister was at the law enforcement academy and couldn’t be there with us. Thanks Team Gleason and John-boys place for a great place to wind down and just “be.”

OH! And eat at the Buckboard restaurant. You can thank me later!

Scott is just starting to use his Tobbi, and his mom passed along this message from him:

He was able to get out that his favorite parts were not having to go to therapy, and just being able to sit on the porch and watch the birds and fish in the lake. He loved feeling safe and not having to navigate steps (he feels unsafe despite there being two of us who lift and move him). He was also able to participate (and cheat!) in card games using a special block that held his cards. He just loved being included! No sitters while we went sightseeing and Leslie thinking of everything. It was wonderful to see how happy he was! He slept longer and deeper than he had in year

Team Gleason would like to thank John-Boy’s Place for their continued support of those living with ALS.

Catalina Island Adventure

Christine had three requirements for her Adventure: it needed to be hot, she wanted to be by the ocean, and her family had to be with her. One long flight from the Midwest and a short ferry ride later, and Christine and her family were on Catalina Island.

April 2024
by Christine Keely

There are so many memorable moments, I cannot pick one. We played cards together, swings, kayaking, riding in the golf car, celebrating my birthday, and having my son carry me up the stairs.

Every morning Jeff would make us breakfast and I would sit on the balcony with my cup of coffee watching the sunrise with my family.

My challenge was the stairs up the Airbnb which I was warned about beforehand, but the place was just so beautiful. My son would carry me up and down them on his back and it was very special. We said it was our training for the marathon.

It meant a lot for me to have my whole family together and be there for me. I felt all the love from each one of them and it made it the best trip.

Everything on the trip was accessible for me and everyone switched off pushing me in my wheelchair. The golf cart was nice to have that came with the Airbnb. The stairs were the only challenge. Restaurants were very accommodating and helpful with my wheelchair too.

Adventure Details:

FLIGHT: Delta, Minneapolis, Minnesota Los Angeles, CA 

ADVICE FOR A SIMILAR TRIP: “My advice would be to slow down and take in the beautiful surroundings. Take time to just be in the moment with your family.” – Christine

Wes’s Pigeon Forge Adventure

April 2024
by Wes Waites

Over the past year, everything has changed. Some would say for the worst, but I’d say for the better.

I’d known for a couple years something was wrong, but I’m a guy and chalked it up to work and overdoing it, I was sadly incorrect. I’m blessed with a wonderful and understanding wife and an incredible mother-in-law, and a faith we have that no matter happens we just face it head on, together.

Together being the key word, you can’t do this alone. That’s where organizations like Team Gleason step in. Our world imploded and without organizations like Gleason to help navigate these waters it would be impossible not to drown. 

My wife and I are young as far ALS goes, both 44, and nobody thinks that the “second half” is going to involve something like this horrible disease, but there comes the blessing, the knowing.

All the small stuff that seemed so big before, well they aren’t so big or important anymore. Gratitude comes over you for literally everything and everyone, the true angels among us show their wings, and you find yourself with a circle that grows larger now.

The past year since my diagnosis in July of 2023, has been a journey, almost my odyssey. Learning the healthcare system, to acquiring equipment, figuring out the best path for us going forward, none of this could be done without organizations like Team Gleason. 

Then here comes Emily with Team Gleason. Absolutely adamant I take a trip, so I digressed and submitted for a mountain trip to Pigeon Forge, no real adventure here, more of a respite. A time to reflect a bit, let emotions of the past year come out, and to at least try to NOT think about ALS for at least a moment.

It was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking and soul cleansing. I saw fireflies for the first time in a long time, saw a shooting star, and drank my first glass of wine ever while sitting in a hot tub looking down the side of a mountain. It was much needed and appreciated.

We went to the titanic exhibit while there, not set up for handicapped persons, but it was very humbling to see the items on display and to remember those who passed on that horrible day.

Then we shopped. Yes, that may seem silly, but for the past year it’s been nothing but medical decisions and Dr appointments and hard life decisions and choices, so for a day or two, I got to see my wife and mother-in-law in their element, looking for deals, not thinking of ALS.

Thank you, Team Gleason, for the adventure/ respite trip, and all of the other incredible programs you have to help families wade through these waters. Thank you for allowing my two incredible caregivers at least a weekend to breathe, and me the opportunity to share it with them. To anyone out there reading this, be kind. Before this, I was wrapped up in my own world and its happenings, and it’s a daily practice in patience, but every single person we encounter has something they are struggling with, just because they look ok, doesn’t mean that they are. 

Blessings to all,
Wes, Carla, and Grammy 

David’s Hot Air Balloon Over Tucson Adventure

March 2024
by David Dominie

Adventures look different for every person. For David, it wasn’t traveling all together with his family, it was his family traveling to be together. Team Gleason was so excited to bring David’s family to Tucson for an Adventure in the sky.

My wife and I, our two adult children, and son-in-law, awoke early to great excitement and anticipation for our dawn hot air balloon flight over the Tucson, Arizona desert. We met and traveled with our pilot and owner of Tucson Balloon Rides, Kevin, to the launch site.

We were all a little anxious not knowing quite what to expect, but Kevin quickly put us at ease with humor as he explained the procedure for the flight. 

Just seeing the process of laying the balloon out and its inflation was something to behold.  Legs akimbo entering the basket once it was upright, we set off into the sky as the sun rose, the burners pushing our ascent upwards of 2,000 feet. A bit afraid of heights and with Bulbar ALS, I had the sensation of total serenity and comfort. In fact, we all did.  
Airborne for about an hour and a half, we stood in thrall of the landscape below. We floated over some dramatic landforms, sometimes descending closely to view the myriad saguaro cacti, and a group of javelinas scampering about in the desert vegetation. Preparing for the descent, Kevin forewarned us that the basket would bounce and drag along the desert floor when we landed, telling us to hold on tightly.  Bounce it did, offering a very excitingbut safe conclusion to our flight.  We grinned widely once on the ground!   
My quest these days is to create strong family memories and this adventure more than filled the bill! The family week together was priceless, including also a raptor free-flight demonstration and touch pool at the Tucson-Sonoran Desert Museum that captivated my 4-year-old granddaughter and daughter-in-law who did not take the flight.   

Thank you, Gleason Foundation, most kindly for making our family adventure possible. 

Breanna’s Fox Island Adventure

March 2024
by Breanna Olson

In her Adventure application, Breanna wrote to Team Gleason: My children have always been my focus and my world. As a single mom with a terminal diagnosis, time with them has become even more precious. I would love to spend time in a place with a beautiful water view where we can visit and laugh, eat a good meal together at a restaurant, play a game, solve a puzzle and feel the peace of the water and enjoy the views of nature.

After discussing a few destinations, Breanna chose an Adventure to spend a few days on Fox Island in Washington and Team Gleason was more than happy to help make that happen!

We had such a beautiful, peaceful adventure! We stayed in a beautiful home on Fox Island, WA. One of my favorite parts was sipping tea with my brother, who is my caregiver, in the morning outside on the deck. The weather wasn’t the best but when the rain stopped there was this beautiful rainbow.

I loved reading books with my kids, they beaded bracelets for a good cause, we told stories, and ate around the dinner table. Having this time with my kids and brother will be a cherished memory of peace and fun in such a difficult time. 

The home was not an accessible home specifically, but my brother is able to pick me up and my daughter is able to help me get in the amazing, big bathtub that I enjoyed so much! I recommend bringing easy to cook meals and just enjoy the view and quiet time with your family.

If you know the home is not an accessible home make sure there is a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor with no steps inside so that you can go around freely with your wheelchair or walker.

I can’t thank you enough, Team Gleason for our wonderful adventure!!

Janna’s Daytona 500 Adventure

February 2024
by Janna Curtis and family

When your mom is the queen of surprises, it’s only fitting that you go behind her back to help her dreams come true. Janna’s daughter reached out to us about getting her mom to the Daytona 500. Sundays are Race Days in her house. The family took a shot and got the tickets themselves, and Team Gleason was thrilled to help with all the boring parts of travel, like flights and hotels. You can read more about what Janna had to say about her surprise trip to Daytona – even with rain delays. 

What was your favorite part of the Adventure? 

Janna‘s favorite part of the trip was being able to go on the track before the cup race! She even took her scooter for a little spin on the bank of the track. We purchased special fan zone and pre-race access tickets and were able to see the driver introductions and even sign our names on the track! This was a really cool time to see all the pits up close as well. Definitely a NASCAR fan‘s dream. 

The most memorable part of the trip was spending quality time with family. It was very special to getaway together for the extended weekend.  

Did you face any challenges? How were you able to overcome them? 

We had typical travel issues on the way there with flight delays, but luckily we could select new flights within the airlines app! We also had some damaged luggage we had to go shopping to replace.

The real challenge was the intense weather Daytona was hit with during the entire weekend. All the races and events cannot be held in the rain, so we were held in limbo until NASCAR could reschedule. Daytona Beach is a very outdoor-based town also… so while waiting for them to be rescheduled we played lots of cards in our hotel and made the (very rainy) venture to Disney Springs for the day.

Luckily, the Xfinity and Cup race were rescheduled for a beautiful and sunny Monday (instead of Saturday and Sunday).  

What did this trip mean to you? 

Janna says this trip means everything to her! It is her version of the Super Bowl as a lifelong NASCAR fan.  

How was the accessibility on your adventure? 

Accessibility was just fine based on what was needed for this trip and event. Daytona Speedway has a great system with ADA shuttles from the lots, to the fan zone, and the entrances. Janna used her mobility scooter to avoid long walks and we could use an elevator to get to our section.

Plus our seats were only up a couple of steps so everything was very manageable! 

What advice would you have for someone else going on a similar adventure? 

Over-prepare and pack everything you will need for an extra day and night in case things change that are out of your control! Oh, and bring a rain coat when traveling to Florida! Regardless of what happens, if you are with your people you can make the best out of a not-so-great situation and have fun. 

Red Sox at Angel Stadium Adventure

April 2024
by Clayton Nolan

Every adventure is unique. Two people can want to do the exact same thing, but the why is always different. When Clayton Nolan reached out to Team Gleason, his biggest concern was doing something amazing with his son. While we were not able to assist with his first request, we were able to help him see his favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, with some of his favorite people – most importantly his son. 

“This trip meant a lot to me and my son,” wrote Clayton. “He got to be free from helping me and enjoy the game we both love.” 

Team Gleason was able to secure a suite for the Red Sox vs. Angel’s game in LA. The staff at Angel’s stadium were amazing to work with, helping Clayton navigate through the stadium. 

“It was great,” wrote Clayton. “They escorted us to our suite and made sure the path was clear for my powerchair.” 

Even with the assistance, mother nature didn’t fully cooperate. But, Clayton’s friends came through. “It got a lot colder than we expected and I was freezing,” wrote Clayton. “My friend bought me a blanket to cover me up.” 

When it came to his favorite part of his adventure, Clayton said it was “being able to spend time with my family and friends and watch my favorite team play.” 

 When the final pitch was thrown and Clayton returned home, he wrote the most memorable part of the day was “Seeing my kids forget about their problems and just enjoy their time.” 

We’ll end this blog with Clayton’s advice for anyone else thinking about doing something similar: “Don’t be afraid to go. You will only regret [not doing] it. I have bad anxiety about going out in public and I’m so happy I went.” 

Whale Watching Trip in Seattle

November 2023
by Kaitlyne Sargent

Kaitlyne Sargent had never travelled and Washington State and Seattle were on the top of her list. She wanted to be in a large city, and still explore nature. Plus, she likes dreary weather, so Seattle seemed like a perfect fit. Team Gleason was delighted to help Katy take a train from Minnesota to Seattle to explore the area – and hop on a ferry. You can read more about her Adventure in her own words below. 

Did you face any challenges? How were you able to overcome them? 

My Wheelchair did not like the safety bumps in the crosswalks in downtown Seattle and would stop in the middle of the street. We had to override my system constantly. LOL. The whale watching ferry was not Wheelchair accessible, so the crew had to watch my Wheelchair at the dock. I had help getting into the ferry and had help getting onto the bow. In order to see the whales, my Husband had to stand behind me and hold me up. 

What was your favorite part of the Adventure? 

The view on the train; they were so incredible and driving to the various places I went in the mountains like Olympia National Park was incredible and whale watching. Oh my gosh, whale watching has been something I’ve always wanted to do! 

What was the most memorable moment?

Olympia National Park and whale watching. Oh my gosh, the last 15 minutes as we were pulling back into port we got to see a pod of orcas and it was a dream come true. 

 What did this trip mean to you? 

This trip meant everything to me. I finally got to visit the West Coast and go on a train and have experiences I would never have had the chance to have. 

How was the accessibility on your adventure? 

Accessibility was very good throughout most of the trip. However, if I did not still have some strength in my legs to where I can stand and walk short distances I would not have been able to use the train or go whale watching because the train just does not have enough room to fit the electric wheelchair and turn into the Wheelchair cabin. I think I would definitely, probably need a sleeper cabin that might be easier to access. I’m not sure as for watching. I don’t know if they have any other accessible ferries that do allow wheelchairs. All the ones I looked into did not have access. It was completely worth it, but I wish some things were a little bit easier. 

 

What advice would you have for someone else going on a similar adventure? 

Make sure if you want to go whale watching near Seattle that you book the tickets in advance and if you cannot stand or walk short distances, make sure you call different whale watching companies to see if they have wheelchair accessibility.  

If you want to use a train and you can’t stand or walk short distances, make sure that you try to get a sleeper car so it’s easier, especially get a sleeper car with a bathroom because if you cannot walk short distances, you will not be able to use the bathroom. 

As for things to do, I definitely recommend spending like two days at Olympic National Park because it is absolutely huge and driving the six hours to it and having to drive six hours back to Seattle definitely did not give us enough time to go everywhere in the park that we wanted to.  

Definitely go to la Parisian bakery because it was incredible! 

 

Adventure Details:

TRAIN: St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN – Union Depot Seattle, WA – King Street Station

LODGING: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Seattle Downtown/Seattle Center

VAN RENTAL: Wheeler’s Van Rental

ATV Riding at Hatfield-McCoy Trails

November 2023
by the Lippert Family

When Matthew’s family reached out about surprising their father with a trip to ride side by side ATVs throughout the country roads, we immediately got to planning! Matthew and his family were able to ride the Hatfield-McCoy trail system in West Virginia.

Thank you so much Team Gleason!

This trip truly meant the world to our family as we have only ever been on one vacation together and its been awhile since dad has gotten to see everyone together having fun and making memories, especially as a family.

Everyday seemed to be a new adventure and there was a different experience for the family every day along with different challenges dad faced.

Some of the challenges we faced were the accessibility of the cabins we stayed at and places along the trails for break stops. Although dad is still able to walk with a walker, he still has trouble with stairs and long distances as they are both tiring.

The most memorable instances about this trip would have to be see the smile on dads face after getting out of his sxs after completing one of the hardest trail on the Hatfield-McCoy trail system.

We planned the last day of the trip for dad to drive the whole day on the Outlaw trails knowing that this could be the last time he would probably drive. He had so much fun driving through the difficult trails and maneuvering through tough turns and obstacles.

Although dad wanted to be in the driver seat for the whole trip, we knew it would be a challenge so we brough family friends to help with the driving. Having an extra driver made it possible for dad to go through McDonalds’s drive through while in his sxs, and the smile on his face was unmatched.

If anyone else wants to go on an adventure similar to this one, dad recommends you don’t get frustrated if you can’t do everything. Just sit back an enjoy the ride.

Adventure Details:

LODGING:
Gold and Blue Cabins
Almost Heaven Cabin
Bluefield, WV 24701

Super Bowl LVIII Series: The Krummel Family

February 2024
by Lesley, Mike, and Jordan Krummel 

When I first filled out my application for an adventure to the Super Bowl, I never dreamed that everything would fall into place as it did.

My family and I have been Kansas City Chiefs fans for decades, and to get to see them in the Super Bowl was a dream come true. At the beginning of the football season, the Chiefs were not doing that well. I was not sure that they would make it to the Super Bowl at all. But in true Chiefs form, they pulled it together and made it! 

My husband, Mike, and our son, Jordan are the two biggest KC Chiefs fans I know. Well, everyone in our family are huge Chiefs fans. 

So, when I got the news that we were going to go to the Super Bowl we were over the moon! We set out for Kansas City to catch our flight. As we were walking through the airport, we could hear drums. Pretty soon, here came a drum core and KC Wolf. What fun! Then, as we neared our gate that we would be loading the plane from, there were balloons and banners and lots of people excited to go to the game. When we boarded the plane, I think every single person on there was a KC Chiefs fan. We had a fun flight to Las Vegas!  

Everyone at United Airlines was very helpful and made my trip so much easier. We arrived in Las Vegas and Emily had arranged transportation for me, which was perfect. We got to Harrah’s hotel and settled in.

We were able to take in some sites on Saturday. We were able to get on the Highroller and enjoy a wax museum. 

Finally, Sunday arrived!

Once again, Emily had arranged my transportation, and it went very well. We got to the stadium and were able to go down onto the field before the game. That was amazing! We cannot thank Andrew Jo for his help getting the Super Bowl tickets and the on-field passes. 

The stadium was super easy to get around in my wheelchair and everyone was very helpful. The best part about the whole day was that the Kansas City Chiefs won in overtime! What a game!

 

My husband and I had a blast and will never forget our time and our experience at the Super Bowl. Emily was amazing to work with and made everything go smoothly. If we had any questions, she was available to answer them and help us out. 

Emily had arranged transportation for us to get back to the airport, and once again that went very smoothly. The flight home was full of Kansas City chief fans again, so we had a very nice flight home. 

We cannot thank Team Gleason, Andrew Jo, National Football League Sr. Manager of Retired Players Program and Emily Elizabeth, Adventure Coordinator, for the amazing adventure. It was a once in a lifetime experience that we will not forget. Go Chiefs!

Saints Game in Caesar’s Superdome

December 2023
by Derrick Goines

My favorite part of my Team Gleason Adventure was, of course as a Saints fan, attending the game with my family. It was an experience that will be remembered forever.  

My family doesn’t travel much. It was a delight to see family interaction with the locals during our visit and with rival fans.

There were some challenges as ALS is a challenge. Mine was maneuvering around. I was able to get parking passes and that helped with the trip to the Super Dome.  

The trip meant a lot to me. As I travel this journey with ALS, I am extremely grateful for the people who love me. Seeing the smiles on their faces gives me life.  

Accessibility was wonderful and everyone was kind and helpful without making me feel like an outsider

For anyone who wants to have a similar experience, my advice would be to just have fun and enjoy the memories. 

Adventure Details:

ADVENTURE: NFL Game, Lions @ Saints, Sun, Dec 3 / Caesars Superdome, ADA seats

FLIGHT: United, Washington DC ⇔ New Orleans, LA

LODGING: Renaissance New Orleans Arts Warehouse District Hotel, Executive Room, 2 Double Beds, (Mobility Accessible, Roll-In Shower)