CougGreat Gleason donates big

SPOKANE -- Steve Gleason will never be forgotten at Washington State, and the same can be said of his old high school. Gleason's No. 34 football uniform number was retired in a ceremony at Spokane's Gonzaga Prep on Tuesday.

Gleason is the second Cougar great to have his number retired at Gonzaga Prep. The other was basketball player Terry Kelly, who scored more than 1,000 points for the Cougs under George Raveling.

Gleason returned the favor by donating $31,000 to cover the four-year cost of attending Prep for an incoming freshman who suffers from a severe spinal condition.

In addition, Gleason donated $31,000 to local Catholic Charities and $31,000 to the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association. The Evergreen Chapter assists victims of ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease – in the Pacific Northwest.

Gleason, long known for his generosity and charity work, dedicated himself to helping the fight against ALS after he was diagnosed with the neurological disease in 2011. There is no cure. The money donated Tuesday was raised at Gleason's June golf tournament at Black Rock on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Mike Arte, a longtime Gonzaga Prep teacher and coach who has been close with Gleason since he was in the ninth grade, said Tuesday's ceremony was "touching" and "very special" for everyone associated with Prep. Gleason starred in football and baseball at Prep and Washington State, then spent seven years in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.

"With us and Steve, it's not about the football part of it, though he was a great athlete for us," Arte said. "I was fortunate enough to be his coach in (freshman) baseball and also had him in class, but with Steve, it's what he's done outside of football. The compassion he shows; he cares. The inspiration he gives to all of us...That inspiration has always been something that motivates you to be a good person."

Gleason's latest ALS fundraiser, the second annual Gleason Fest, will be held Saturday in downtown Spokane. Plenty of live music, food and beverages will be available at Main and Division from noon-11 p.m. Admission is $15.

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