October 2022
By Christine and Paul Anderson
Waterford, MI

A while ago a friend told me about the Team Gleason Foundation and encouraged me to apply for an Adventure.  My husband and I had watched the movie Gleason and were familiar with Steve’s story, but not so much his foundation.  For a number of years, I had wanted to go to the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta. So, I decided to apply to Team Gleason and see if they would send me there.  I was completely shocked when my trip was approved.  I told everyone I knew that my dream was coming true.  So excited!

Emily, Team Gleason’s Adventure Coordinator, communicated with me and worked out the details.  And then the itinerary envelope came.  And the T-shirts.  Oh boy! Oh boy!  Oh boy!  So much excitement I could hardly stand it.  My husband arranged to take time off work, and we were really, really going to go.

Neither one of us had been on an airplane in over 30 years and were not sure of the procedures, so we decided to stay in a hotel room near DTW airport the night before our morning flight just to make sure we would get there on time. In the morning we got up early, had the continental breakfast, moved the car, and took the shuttle bus to the airport with our one suitcase. 

ALS has taken away the use of my arms but I can still walk short distances, so we made it into Detroit Metro Airport and managed to figure out how to get our luggage checked in and get our boarding passes (DTW is not particularly new user friendly).  A Delta employee pointed across the way to a phone on the wall to call for a transport chair, and in a bit someone showed up and took us to our gate.  Had a little delay at the security checkpoint as I could not go through like most people.  The guy left me sitting in front of the scanner and I had no ability to get out of the chair, walk through, raise my arms… So I sat and waited.  Somebody finally noticed, moved me to the side and gave me a seated pat down. 

Well, we made it to the gate, and after a time I was wheeled down the ramp to the plane, where I was able to stand up and walk down the aisle to our seats.  I took the window seat.  It was a wonderful flight on a beautiful day, and we landed in Atlanta in no time.  We were met on the ramp by a person holding a tablet/sign with my name in one hand and a transport chair in the other.  She cheerfully guided us to the baggage claim area and then outside to the ride share transportation zone. 

A Lyft driver got us from the Atlanta airport to the Hilton Hotel, showing us the World of Coca-Cola building right around the corner.  To our surprise, the hotel was right across the street from the Georgia Aquarium.  Very cool.  7th floor indoor and also outdoor pools and jacuzzi.  We could see the Mercedes Benz football stadium right there.  And we were also right by Centennial Park, dedicated to the 1996 Olympics which were held in Atlanta.

We were early for check-in so we had a bite to eat at Johnny Rocket’s down the street. 

Well, we got checked in and unpacked, explored the hotel and area a bit, and settled in for the night.  “I can’t believe we are actually here.”

The next day we slept in a bit, which is a luxury for my husband who is normally up at 4 a.m.  We had breakfast at the hotel and around 10:30 headed out for the ¼ mile walk across the plaza to the World of Coca-Cola for our scheduled 11:00 guided tour.

They saw us coming, decked out in our Team Gleason Adventure T-shirts, and greeted us enthusiastically. Treating us like royalty, our guide had a transport chair waiting for me.  My face was starting to hurt from smiling so much. Oh my!  Unbelievable!  What a great time we had!

We saw so much and learned so much about the history of Coke, from how it was created, how the logo came to be, the bottles, vending machines, marketing, and corporate philosophy.  We saw the Olympic torches used in the eternal flame torch runs which Coca-Cola sponsored, and I got to hold the torch that Mohammed Ali held when he lit the flame at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  We tasted various coke products from around the world (who knew?), and ended the tour in the gift shop, where I added just a little to my collection of Coca Cola items.

Then we walked across the plaza to the new Coca-Cola Cafe for sandwiches and reflection on how blessed we are. The rest of the day was spent at Centennial Park and back at the hotel.

We had one more day left to spend in Atlanta on our adventure, so we decided to check out the Georgia Aquarium.

We slept in again, and then went out for a late breakfast at a highly recommended southern breakfast place.  I had peach cobbler French toast and he had peach chicken waffles.  It was wonderful.  The Georgia Aquarium was basically across the street, so we headed over there and entered the world of sea life.  It was great.  We hadn’t even known this place existed, but it turned out to be the 2nd  highlight of our trip.  So many strange and wonderful creatures.

Dinner was at the Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe a few blocks away.  Thank you Lyft driver who rescued us, as we had overestimated my ability to walk that far (it was uphill).

One more night at the Hilton, a Lyft ride to ATL where we were whisked through a special security screening line for those in transport chairs, and we were on our way home.

Thank you Team Gleason for providing the air transportation, hotel accommodations, the Lyft gift card, and the private tour of the World of Coca-Cola. This adventure will be forever remembered.

A very special thank you to World of Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola United for providing a private tour for Christine.