– 12 ICONS OF NEW ORLEANS –
Selected by JPMorgan Chase
THE ICON: Michel Varisco Gleason
THE LEGACY: Famed New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s 2011 ALS diagnosis sent shockwaves throughout the Crescent City. However, nowhere was the impact felt more profoundly than by Gleason’s wife, Michel Varisco Gleason.
The years following the diagnosis were trying for Varisco Gleason and her husband alike. Through troubling times, however, there soon came a shining light – an opportunity for the couple to create a global conversation around ALS while catalyzing the search for a cure.
So began Team Gleason.
Now an internationally renowned nonprofit, Team Gleason was founded after Varisco Gleason and her husband realized that the strength of their support system could be used to benefit individuals with ALS around the world. It quickly became clear that they were poised to redefine the way society approached ALS for good.
Varisco Gleason and her husband have since spearheaded numerous initiatives, increasing access to cutting-edge ALS technology while promoting worldwide awareness of the effects of the disease on patients and caretakers alike. Efforts have even led to what’s now considered the largest collaborative ALS research project the world has seen to date.
But Team Gleason wasn’t the only way that Varisco Gleason found purpose through tragedy. Her trials also led to the discovery of previously unrealized artistic talents.
Armed with just an old sketch pad and a few pencils, Varisco Gleason began drawing during one of her husband’s surgeries. It was then that she realized how art provided an invaluable opportunity to relish a sense of peace that had so long been out of reach. And since that revelation, she’s used her works – along with Team Gleason – to remind the world of an invaluable lesson that reflects not only her own experiences, but those of New Orleans as a whole: “There’s always a way to create beauty out of something tragic.”
THE INSPIRATION: “Artistic talent is within all of us – you just have to find a way to get it out.”