GLASA celebrates Olympic gold with Hollywood glamour

The athletes, hearts and the theme at the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association’s annual gala on March 15 all had one thing in common — gold.

Olympic gold medalist and Matt Grevers and Paralympian Alyssa Gialamas helped bring more than 200 people to Fields BMW in Northfield on Saturday to help raise $70,000 for Lake Forest-based GLASA’s sports and wellness programming for children, teens and adults with physical and visual disabilities.

This year’s theme: The Golden Age of Hollywood.

Jazz in the Forest amplified the ambiance of venue, into which people walked from a red carpet — but not before walking past Fields impressive inventory, which included a 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive35i, 2014 BMW 750i Li xDrive and a 2014 BMW M5 Base.

Eyes darted back from the cars to Grevers and Gialamas, their presence all the while reminding guests that they were there to support an important cause.

“Their motto is great: ‘Let no one sit on the sidelines.’ It hits home for me. Just being able to participate in sports…that’s such a big part of my life — it pretty much is my life,” said Grevers, a Lake Forest High School alum and four-time Olympic gold medalist.

Grevers said that oftentimes, having too much time to let one’s mind wander can be damaging to the psyche, and that it was important to offer kids and adults of all ability levels the chance to participate in sports.

“When you have time to think about things, you sort of create problems that weren’t there before; but when you’re set on achieving a goal, you are kind of distracted from the things that you’re not happy with in life,” Grevers said.

Gialamas, who hails from Naperville, said that GLASA was the reason for her success in swimming.

She won fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2012 Paralympics and four silver medals in the 2011 Parapan American Games. The six-time Illinois State Champion, now a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School, currently competes on the U.S. National Paralympic Swim Team.

“They are actually the organization that got me into swimming and showed me that I could be good at it, so it’s cool to kind of turn around and help them now,” Gialamas said about being named honorary chair.

After enjoying few cocktails and delicacies from Francesca’s, Gale Gand, Marcello’s and more, guests heard another gripping story from keynote speaker and GLASA Athlete Bob Swanson, who went from a completely able-bodied athlete, to a discouraged paraplegic, to an empowered paraplegic athlete.

Proceeds from the event will fund programs like wheelchair basketball, goalball, wheelchair track and field, swimming and sled hockey, as well as the Athlete Scholarship Fund that provides financial assistance to more than 63 percent of GLASA’s athletes.