Jimmy Collins Special Awards 2013While there are many different categories of award-winners, some years the committee finds that there are people deserving of recognition, who do not necessarily fit into one specific category. For that reason, the Committee presents Special Awards to outstanding individuals and teams.
This year’s Special Award winners are being presented to a team and a duo, both of whom have taken very challenging circumstances and turned them into opportunities to educate the general public about very serious illnesses while pushing relentlessly for cures to these illnesses.
Robin Roberts, a former star basketball player at Southeastern Louisiana, had fought off breast cancer, but then, in 2012, the Good Morning America co-host found out she had myelodysplastic symdrome (MDS), a cancer affecting the blood. The key to her latest fight was finding a suitable bone marrow donor – and that turned out to be her sister, Sally-Anne (pictured right with Sugar Bowl President Jay Batt), the co-host of the top-rated WWL-TV morning show in New Orleans.
The Roberts’ sisters are now working together to raise awareness about the national bone marrow registry program. Bethematch.org is an information website which gives information about the importance of registering – which can be done through a simple swab test. While family members can sometimes be matching donors, that is not always the case and people must find others to make the donations in order to save their lives. The website explains the process of donating and also gives testimonies from people who donated and received bone marrow. The goal is to significantly increase the number of people registered in order to have the opportunity to save many more lives.
The next special award is being presented to Team Gleason, represented by foundation director Paul Varrisco (pictured left). Steve Gleason will always be remembered for his blocked punt on the night the Superdome reopened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina. Gleason, who played for the Saints from 2000-2008 was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), considered a terminal neuro-muscular disease, in 2001.
Steve and his friends and family started Team Gleason with three goals in mind:
1) Help provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services.
2) Create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find solutions and an end to the disease.
3) Raise public awareness toward ALS by providing and documenting extraordinary life adventures for individuals with muscular diseases or injuries.
Gleason is determined to inspire others by continuing to pursue life adventures despite his diagnosis, and has challenged the worlds of technology and science to identify their most promising developments toward new treatments and a cure.