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ESPN Father’s Day feature to spotlight relationship between Spokane’s Steve Gleason, son Rivers

Michel Rae Varisco places her hand on husband Steve Gleason’s arm and embraces their son Rivers as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees speaks during Steve’s Congressional Gold Medal ceremony Jan. 15, 2020, in Washington D.C.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A Father’s Day special from ESPN’s “SportsCenter Featured” program should be appointment viewing for graduates of Washington State and Gonzaga Prep, and residents of Spokane and the greater Inland Northwest.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, ESPN2 will air the segment “A Father’s Resilience,” highlighting the relationship between former G-Prep, WSU and New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason and his family.

Gleason and his wife Michel Rae Varisco learned they were pregnant with their first child, Rivers, just six weeks after the Spokane native was diagnosed with ALS. According to a tweet from ESPN, Gleason will be getting “a special Father’s Day surprise from his son” in the nationally televised feature.

“Dad, I think you’re a great leader and you teach us to be resilient in hard times,” Rivers is quoted as saying in a 47-second trailer posted on Twitter.

From the day his son was conceived, Gleason habitually kept video journals of conversations between him and Rivers. In 2013, many of those videos, along with other aspects of the relationship between Gleason and his son, were revealed in another SportsCenter feature.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about fathers and sons since you’ve been born,” Gleason said in one such video.

“At this point it looks like we’re not going to have the normal father-son relationship.

“I’m going to be around, buddy, and it’s not gonna be easy, but it’s gonna be awesome.”

In 2020, Gleason was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C., for his contributions to ALS awareness, most notably through his nonprofit foundation “Team Gleason” that’s raised millions of dollars for ALS research.