Saints owner Tom Benson donates $5 million to Team Gleason

By John Breech |

Tom Benson and his wife Gayle are donating $5 million to Team Gleason. (USATSI)
Tom Benson and his wife Gayle are donating $5 million to Team Gleason. (USATSI)

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After a weekend where Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling dominated the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Saints owner Tom Benson made headlines on Monday for the right ones.

Benson and his wife Gayle announced that they're donating $5 million to Team Gleason, a non-profit organization named after former Saints player Steve Gleason, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The money will help Team Gleason fund a House for Innovative Living at St. Margaret's in New Orleans, a house that will be designed as an independent living community where people with ALS can live on their own. According to's Peter King, the house is scheduled to open in June.

"Gayle and I couldn't be more proud of the work that Steve and Team Gleason are doing for people living with ALS. Steve inspires us all with his message of facing and overcoming adversity," Benson said in a statement. "And, we wanted to be part of growing this community of productive individuals committed to living as independently as possible."

Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. Also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS is a debilitating disease that has left Gleason unable to move his extremities. The former Saints player communicates with advanced technology that allows him to 'type' with his eyes.

The house in New Orleans will give 18 people with ALS access to this technology and allow them to live virtually independent lives.

"After I was diagnosed with ALS, the continued support [my wife] and I have received from the Saints and the Bensons has been humbling and a tremendous comfort to us both," Gleason said. "They have been like a second family to us on and off the field. With the creation of the Team Gleason House, we announced to the world that, with the right care and the right technology, ALS patients, can be productive and purposeful for decades Through this generous gift, we are assured of the sustainability of that mission."

Gleason told King that his ultimate vision is to have a similar facility in every NFL city.

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