Steve Gleason’s Congressional Gold Medal inspires current Bullpups

Former Bullpup awarded highest honor Congress can award a civilian

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane native Steve Gleason is officially a Congressional Gold Medal recipient. He is a former Gonzaga Prep student, WSU football player, and New Orleans Saint. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also called ALS, in 2011.

Though he never saw the illness as a setback. He saw it as an opportunity. For years, he’s worked on ALS awareness and paid for research through his organization, Team Gleason. That’s where he coined his signature motto “No White Flags.” Wednesday, Congress awarded him with the highest honor any American civilian can get. His fellow Bullpups watched live from Gonzaga Prep, where he graduated in 1995.

Team Gleason is inspiring the next generation – one that wants to make a difference and change our community for the better.  They’ve seen what Gleason, a fellow Bullpup, could achieve. Now, they want to go out and do the same.

Before he was the leader of Team Gleason, he was a Bullpup. He was Steve Gleason, No. 34. His old jersey’s been retired, his picture hangs in the hall of fame, and his old football coach has every piece of memorabilia and old photo on the walls of his classroom. It’s all to remind the next generation the power we have to make a difference in the world we live in.

“Our mission is to go out there and make a difference and he’s done that,” said Zxandre Jean-Francois, a senior at Gonzaga Prep.

When Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, it took away his ability to walk and speak without the help of technology.  But that didn’t stop No. 34.

“He looked at this as more of an opportunity, rather than a setback. And it is just very inspiring to see that and listen to him,” said Elizabeth Meyer, a senior at Gonzaga Prep.

It’s that “No White Flags” mindset that’s allowed this group of students to believe there is no dream too big, and no goal you cannot reach.

“As long as you’re just passionate about it and willing to put in the work for it, it is really yours to grab,” Jean-Francois said.

His work towards educating others about ALS and finding a cure was recognized at the highest level Wednesday, a Congressional Gold Medal.

“He’s been the advocate for people who might’ve lost their voice, so that is something we all have the capability of doing,” Jean-Francois said.

Teaching these kids, potentially future Congressional Gold Medal recipients, achievement means making an impact that is greater than yourself.

“I want to become a surgeon when I’m older – that’s a long and hard road ahead of me. Like, if I work hard for it and I put in the work,then that is something I can achieve,” Jean-Francois said.

Because before he was Team Gleason, he was Bullpup No. 34.

“I feel that this honor represents joy, encouragement, and even triumph for more than tens of thousands of extraordinary families currently enduring life with ALS,” Gleason said.