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New license plate supports ALS foundation

BATON ROUGE — A House committee approved a bill to allow Louisiana residents buy Team Gleason Foundation license plates to help a former New Orleans Saints player in his fight against ALS.

Steve Gleason, one of the most beloved players in Saints history, was a safety from 2000 to 2008 and was diagnosed with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2011. He and his wife established the Team Gleason Foundation shortly after that to inspire and show other ALS patients they “can not only live but thrive.”

Most Saints fans recall his blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons, which helped lead the Saints to victory, on the night the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina.

Gleason has taken the lead in developing life-enhancing innovations for ALS patients and has challenged Microsoft to craft technology allowing paralyzed individuals to navigate their wheelchairs with only their eyes. Microsoft not only succeeded but went on to integrate eye-tracking technology in Windows 10 products.

In 2014, Gleason and his organization hosted a summit for researchers, patients and caregivers to brainstorm a plan to end ALS in our lifetime. The summit resulted in the formation of Answer ALS, the largest ALS research project in the world.

House Speaker Pro-Tem Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, sponsored the bill, which requires a $25 annual royalty fee that will be forwarded to the Team Gleason Foundation.

“I’m sure I don’t need to lecture the committee on the impact of Steve Gleason,” Leger said.

The House Transportation Committee approved the bill, and it will move to the House floor.

Gleason is widely regarded as a face of positivity in confronting ALS.

ALS kills the neurons that control voluntary muscles, resulting in paralysis.

The license plate “is a great opportunity to show our appreciation for all he’s done,” Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, said.

Photo: Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, sponsored a bill for a license plate to aid former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason’s fight against ALS. (Photo by Sarah Gamard / LSU Manship School News Service)

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