Fox 6 anchor Brad Hicks gives presentation at United Nations
When WITI-TV Fox 6 anchor and reporter Brad Hicks had the opportunity to share with others the world of Steve Gleason, the report hit close to home.
"My brother has ALS, also known as the Lou Gehrig's disease," Hicks said when we chatted on Tuesday. "I don't know if you know of Steve Gleason … he's a former New Orleans Saints player who was diagnosed with ALS shortly after retiring from football."
Hicks recently gave an address at the United Nations in New York on ALS, the need for more funding and greater awareness while he accepted a lifetime achievement award on Gleason's behalf. The presentation was part of the Media 4 Social Impact Summit 2014, which is coordinated through the United Nations Office of Partnerships.
When Hicks was researching ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain, he came across Gleason and knew he wanted to tell his story.
"(Gleason) had this attitude … that he was going to live, go on adventures …" Hicks said.
Gleason formed a group – Team Gleason with the motto "No White Flags" – and became a face for the terminal neuro-muscular disease.
"Last Tuesday, I got an email," Hicks said. "A contact at the group was wondering if I would go to the U.N. on Steve's behalf. I told them that I'd love to."
Hicks said that he didn't pry into why Gleason could not be there to accept the gift, and he was incredibly humbled to have been asked to step in.
If you take the time to Google Steve Gleason, you'll find a great number of stories done on the former safety in the NFL. But Hicks' reporting resonated with Gleason and the group, and above all others – some from the largest news organizations in the world – he was chosen for this honor.
"I was excited and honored to do this," Hicks said. "Not only was I there on Gleason's behalf, but I represented my brother … and others that suffer from this disease. For that I was truly humbled."
Hicks described the scene, and those who follow the reporter on Facebook, were taken along on the journey. Hicks gave his presentation, including the story that aired on Fox 6, in an assembly room with seating in half circles, growing out from the front. In the audience were people from the U.N.'s Media 4 Social Impact program, creative producers and representatives from a number of commercial agencies.
"Sometimes you can tell how well a presentation is going while you are giving it, and it went really well. You could hear a pin drop …" Hicks said.
I asked Hicks what his hopes were for those there in the audience that day.
"These were creative, connected and caring people," Hicks said. "I talked about ALS, how there is no known treatment, no known cure and the need for more public awareness."
"When they have the opportunity, that they need to step up and use their talents and resources to let others know we need a cure for ALS. … ALS has no boundaries – no boundaries of geography, no boundaries of race, no boundaries of socioeconomic status – that it can hit anyone."
"I told them to picture 20 commercial planes with 250 passengers each that would just fall out of the sky … to fall for no known reason. That's what ALS is. And if that was happening, what would be spent to research why these planes were falling. Would it be more than $40 million? Because that is all we spend on ALS research."
The impact of the amount spent by the National Institutes of Health wasn't lost on the attendees, showing the need for greater funding for something that affects so many people.
For those interested in finding out more about ALS, you can find more information from the ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter.
See more photos from the U.N. Media for Social Impact Summit from Perry Bindelglass Photography.
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