Gleason Gras launches Saints season Friday

The annual ALS fundraiser started by former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is living with the disease, kicked off the NFL season in New Orleans on Friday and served as a pep rally for Sunday’s Atlanta Falcons game.

The event was free and members of Team Gleason, the nonprofit arm for Gleason’s ALS work, raised money through food and drink sales, along with VIP packages and silent and live auctions.

The one-night festival started in 2011 after Gleason announced he was living with the degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In previous years, it took place in November.

Gleason’s group asked that the fundraiser be moved to the beginning of the season and the Saints agreed. “We selected Team Gleason as our charitable/nonprofit focus for the first game,” Saints senior vice president of marketing and business development Ben Hales said. “Team Gleason asked if we were comfortable with them having Gleason Gras the Friday before our first game and theming it as a Saints pep rally.”