On Saturday, April 28, the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) will once again be transforming the recently redone Lake Shore Harley-Davidson in Libertyville into something straight from Saturday Night Live’s 1970s heyday (think King Tut, Roseanne Rosannadanna, and the Coneheads) for its annual GLASA Gala.
GLASA is the trailblazing Lake Forest organization that strives to “Let No One Sit on the Sidelines” through sports and health and wellness programming adapted to meet the needs of youth, adults, and military veterans who have a physical or visual disability through inclusive recreation, fitness, and competitive sports activities. The community-based organization, founded in 1999 by Executive Director Cindy Houser, offers everything from wheelchair football, tennis, and basketball to judo for the visually impaired, adaptive yoga, therapeutic horseback riding, power lifting, sled hockey, and growing swimming and track and field programs, from which they have sent athletes to compete in the Paralympics.
“What GLASA does is more than just sports—it’s that feeling of freedom, of acceptance,” says Cherie Hrusovsky, GLASA’s Development Director.
Typically hosting between 200 and 250 guests, this year’s gala event promises to be a partygoer’s paradise with cocktails, a whiskey tasting bar, photo booth, and gourmet tastings donated from local eateries including Francesca’s, Heller Catering, Jay Lovell’s, Longitud315, Maevery Public House, MLG Chicago, Pizzeria DeVille, Shakou, The Chocolate Sanctuary, Food for Thought, Bent Fork, Reprise Coffee Roasters, and Kloss Distributing. Music and dancing will be provided by the Imperial Flames (Lake Forest native Dave Weld and his band) performing a tribute to the iconic Blues Brothers in keeping with the event’s festive theme. All bidding on silent and live auctions this year will be done electronically. Individuals can bid from anywhere, anytime before the close of the auction from their phone or computer. Even if you can’t attend, you can still bid.
A highlight of the evening will certainly be dancing to the music of Lake Forest native Dave Weld and his band, the Imperial Flames, performing a tribute to the iconic Blues Brothers—SNL’s Dan Akroyd and Jon Belushi—in keeping with the event’s festive theme.
Even better than a Blues Brother or two? Funds raised at the gala go directly back into GLASA programming, be it towards scholarships (no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay) or equipment.
“GLASA has been fortunate over the years to acquire over 200 pieces of adaptive equipment: we provide the sticks, sleds, helmets—you name it. It’s all specialized and can be expensive. For example, an individual basketball wheelchair can cost up to $3,500. Thankfully, our athletes do not have to pay that outrageous sum—we provide everything,” says Hrusovsky. “And better still, our staff is able to modify each piece of equipment to fit the athlete using it.”
Starting with just under a dozen athletes, GLASA now serves nearly 800 individuals in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin every year through programming, from ages 6 to 60-plus, spanning from recreational to competitive to elite level athletes, and more than 3,000 youth and adults yearly through education and outreach initiatives.
“We’re growing every year and are always in need of volunteers to help out with weekly programming—assisting athletes in running drills, working on technique, and helping our coaches—and with our fundraising initiatives, such as the gala. Last year alone, we worked with about 400 volunteers,” Hrusovsky shares. “And we’re always recruiting new board members!”
Beyond the gala, there are many opportunities to learn more or to lend a hand. Taking place May 18-20 is the annual Great Lakes Games in Lake Forest and Niles. Hosted by GLASA, the Adult National Open and Great Lakes Regional Games bring together elite athletes with physical and visual disabilities for top-level competition in areas such as swim, track and field, and archery, with separate divisions for youth, adults, and injured military veterans. This three-day event at Lake Forest High School and Niles West High School is a wonderful experience for athletes, their families, coaches, volunteers, and spectators alike, and a great opportunity to get to know GLASA and see their work—and athletes—in action
In the fall, stay tuned for September’s 5K Twilight Run; Walk, and Roll, where athletes with disabilities compete alongside other members of the community; and for the Chicago Marathon in October, bringing in runners of all ages to raise money for GLASA programming through its participation in the yearly race.
The future looks bright for GLASA and its excellent athletes, thanks to its devoted team and the support of its community—and its annual gala, which is as fun as it is impactful. In the words of Steve Martin, it’s guaranteed to be a “wild and crazy night!”
To purchase tickets ($125/individual or $1000/table), make a donation, or become a gala sponsor, visit glasagala.org.