Celebrating a memorable 2014 for Uplifting Athletes


UA COLLAGEUplifting Athletes has plenty to celebrate in as we near the end of our seventh year as a national non-profit.

The continued support of our expanding coast-to-coast network of student-athlete led chapters is the main reason for our success.

On behalf of the 30 million Americans currently battling a rare disease, and our 25 college football student athlete-led chapters, thank you for helping Uplifting Athletes tackle rare diseases.

In 2014 our network of chapters held 34 events from the signature Lift For Life raising more than $200,000 for rare disease research to our new in-season Touchdown Pledge Drive bringing in almost $36,000.

Uplifting Athletes could not support our network of 25 college football student-athlete led Chapters to raise research dollars and spread awareness without our supporters.

The Heisman Trust became an Uplifting Athletes supporter in 2014 with a chapter expansion and growth matching grant. Our chapters raised nearly $250,000 for rare disease research through its events. And the Penn State Chapter eclipsed the $1 million raised threshold since 2003 in support of kidney cancer research.

So as 2014 comes to a close we can all join together to celebrate the ability of our chapters this year to capitalize on the grand stage of the college football season – the time of year when the student-athletes are the most relevant.

“I am very grateful to you for bringing Uplifting Athletes to Arizona and teaching my son the value of service. feel like his experience with this has been more beneficial than any class or football game could be. I am very proud of Brendan for many things, but his involvement with Uplifting Athletes is among the top.” – Jodi Murphy, Mom of Arizona Chapter President Brendan Murphy

For the first time in our seven-year history, each Uplifting Athletes Chapter had the opportunity to support their individual chosen rare disease with an in-season Touchdown Pledge Drive.

Football is all about teamwork, and it took a cohesive team effort by everyone involved with Uplifting Athletes to make these awareness and fundraising campaigns happen at 13 chapters nationwide in 2014.

With Uplifting Athletes becoming directly relevant during the college football season for the first time, our platform is now bigger and stronger.

And we want to continue to have a loud voice in 2015 on this grand stage of college football in order to continue our support of those fighting any one of the 7,000 rare diseases.

“Uplifting Athletes has done so much for me. This organization brought me closer to my college teammates and connected me with some tremendous people in the Big Ten Conference. Working with Uplifting Athletes means being part of something bigger than the game.” – Chris Borland, San Francisco Forty-Niners LB and Wisconsin graduate

On the road with Uplifting Athletes Chapter Manager Becky Mayes during Touchdown Pledge Drive season


HeadshotBecky Mayes is the Chapter Manager at Uplifting Athletes. The 2012 Penn State graduate directly oversees all 25 Chapters in our network and works with them to coordinate all events and campaigns aimed at raising awareness of and research funds for rare diseases.

Through her position and duties, she spent most of this fall on the road preparing 12 Chapters to hold Touchdown Pledge Drives, and working with other current and perspective Chapters to lay the ground work for future events.

In the pursuit of a successful inaugural Touchdown Pledge Drive season Becky flew more than 13,000 miles through 14 different airports and drove more than 6,500 miles through 22 states.

Back home in Harrisburg, Pa. – the location of our national non-profit headquarters – for the Holiday Season, we sat down with Becky to review and recap a busy college football season on the road.

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Nebraska Pediatric Brain Cancer Awareness Game

QUESTION 1: Share with us what your experiences were this fall working closely with the college football student-athletes during the season for the first time compared to the offseason?

MAYES: Time availability of college football players is drastically different over the spring and summer when most Chapters plan their Lift For Life event versus the fall.

This football season was a big test with most of our Chapters attempting to hold a campaign through the Touchdown Pledge Drive. I needed to make sure this campaign was as simple as possible to execute while still being attractive and engaging enough for their fans to want to participate.

From a campaign planning perspective, there were no operational logistics involved which was a huge help for the student athletes – no need for them to worry about event parking, ticket sales or permit registrations. They just needed to focus on two main things: marketing their Touchdown Pledge Drive before their selected game and scoring touchdowns.

Although this campaign has less moving parts, these student-athletes have very little time available to devote to preparing for it. For me, that meant needing to be much more flexible with my time. The players at the University of Washington can’t talk until after practice on Tuesday? That means I’ll be up until at least 11pm EST to make sure they know what their next steps are and how to execute them.

Since this was also the first time many of our Chapters held a Touchdown Pledge Drive, I had a lot of Chapter visits to make early in the year. I had meetings with not only with the student-athlete leadership team but also coaches and athletics staff making sure all bases were covered and everyone was comfortable and up to speed with this campaign every step of the way.

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Florida State Seminoles “Unconquered” Statue

QUESTION 2: What surprised you the most about running a first-year fundraiser this fall for 9 of our 12 Chapters?

MAYES: I pretty much went into this fall with open eyes unsure of what to expect. We have had three Chapters hold Touchdown Pledge Drives before but none with the automated software we have now.

Colgate, Princeton and Florida State all kept track of pledges manually last year which was obviously very time consuming and something we needed to find a solution to this year which we did through Pldgit.com. Even with a bit of experience last year holding three Touchdown Pledge Drives, I was most surprised by the feedback we got from the Chapter supporters and Chapter leaders.

The fans loved knowing that with every touchdown celebration, they were part of raising rare disease research funds through their pledge. Similarly, the Chapter leaders relished every touchdown a bit more knowing that meant more research funds raised for a cause close to them.

It became more than just about six points on the scoreboard, and I could see the positive impact that had for both the players and their fans.

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Baylor Homecoming & Touchdown Pledge Drive Game

QUESTION 3: As luck would have it you were in the stadium for some of the biggest college football games this season. Give us the one that stands out the most to you and why?

MAYES: I’ve definitely been able to witness some great football games live this year, attending at least one from each of the five major conferences. Every team and university has its own traditions, which are all fantastic to experience in person.

However, a highlight this year would be visiting Baylor for their homecoming and Touchdown Pledge Drive game on November 1st against Kansas in Waco. It was my first game in the Bears’ new stadium – which is gorgeous with the big scoreboard overlooking the river that divides it from the rest of the campus.

For the first homecoming game in the new stadium, Baylor striped the stadium green and gold coordinated by section ahead of time. The weather was great, and the Bears had an explosive day on offensive – scoring six touchdowns and raising more than $6,000 for Cerebral Palsy research.

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Fordham’s Victory Bell

QUESTION 4: Now that Uplifting Athletes Chapters have two fundraising opportunities on a yearly basis, how does that change the landscape of carrying out their mission beyond the obvious chance to raise more dollars?

MAYES: One of the biggest things we’ve struggled with is how to enable and allow our Chapters to engage their fan base and support network during the college football season – when they have the most people tuned into their team and the least amount of time to focus on anything besides school and football.

Having our Chapters able to now hold Touchdown Pledge Drives during the fall opens up the biggest opportunity for them to raise awareness and research funds for a rare disease that hits home for them.

This campaign also creates a more active year-long conversation about what rare diseases are, how so many people have been impacted by them, and what can be done to help.

We are definitely a huge step closer to creating national awareness for the 30 Million Americans who currently suffer from any one of the more than 7,000 rare diseases where more than 95 percent of those currently have no FDA approved treatment option.

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Penn State vs. Ohio State White-Out

QUESTION 5: With all those miles traveled and cities visited on the road, share with us one travel experience you’d like to forget but won’t be able to forget?

MAYES: As with anyone who is used to life on the road, I’ve become somewhat unphased by travel mishaps, crazy weather and sleepless nights. Just this fall, I’ve opened up the Dallas airport at 3:30 a.m. to fly to Phoenix so I could then drive up to Flagstaff for a 1 p.m. meeting that day.

I’ve had multiple flights cancelled which meant landing at an airport different from where I left my car and needing to rent a car one day later to retrieve my car. I drove nearly three hours to the closest available hotel after a Clemson-Florida State game in Tallahassee that ended around midnight

I was completely unprepared with no coat for a surprise cold weather spell in the beginning of October at the Illinois Chapter Touchdown Pledge Drive game at Memorial Stadium against Purdue. I’ve been on the road for more than two-thirds of this football season and have tried to embrace every part of what that entails.

From these past three months, there are a lot of very special memories – many of them coming from curveballs thrown my way. Regardless of what city I wake up in or how often my watch is set in the wrong time zone, I feel so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to enable college football players to make an incredible impact in the rare disease community.

Helping them raise more than $36,000 this fall through their Touchdown Pledge Drives makes every part of this worth it.

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View Flying into Chicago in September

Beyond The Trophy: John Kinder, Stony Brook University


KINDER IMAGEName: John Kinder

College: Stony Brook University

Height, weight, class, position: 6-3, 195, senior, quarterback

High School: Lawrence HS in Long Island, NY

About John Kinder: A transfer from Syracuse University, Kinder already graduated from Syracuse in 2014 and is using his final year of college eligibility at Stony Brook to obtain a masters degree in higher education administration. A wide receiver and quarterback at Syracuse who appeared in four games, Kinder already had experience with Uplifting Athletes at his former school and is working hard to get the Stony Brook Chapter established. He’s appeared in five games this season for the Seawolves at quarterback, throwing for 356 yards and one touchdown. A standout high school quarterback, Kinder was the 2009 New York Class A Player of the Year and threw for more than 5,000 yards during his prep career.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

KINDER: As a player my favorite part of the game day experience is simply the feeling I get when I wake up in the morning knowing that it’s game day. As a football player you train extremely hard, from winter workouts into spring ball, then summer camp, and then in-season practices. We as football players appreciate game day so much because we put so much into it only to have a few opportunities to showcase all of this hard work.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

KINDER: My former teammate at Syracuse University, Eric Morris insisted I get involved with Uplifting Athletes when he discovered I was coming to Stony Brook. He knew I had a passion for serving others and he thought that along with it going toward a good cause, it would be a great way to jump right in and begin being a leader for my fellow teammates. It was an excellent suggestion on his part and I’m glad I got involved with Uplifting Athletes.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

KINDER: My most memorable experience as a college football player didn’t come on the playing field, it came in the classroom. As a freshman I struggled academically, I worked and worked to dig myself out of the hole I dug for myself in that first semester of my freshman year. My most memorable moment as a college football player came when I had my first 3.0 semester.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?

KINDER: The toughest team I’ve ever faced would have to be USC, they had tons of talent all over the field and although we gave them a great game, in the end they were just too much for us to keep up with.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

KINDER: I enjoy watching Everett Golson, the quarterback of Notre Dame play. I think he throws the ball very well and what makes him an excellent player are those intangibles that you can’t coach such as his natural feel for the pocket and his running ability.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

KINDER: My favorite NFL player is Marshawn Lynch, because he plays every single snap with a passion and energy that you don’t often see his opponents match. I think he instills a fear in opposing defenses because of his aggressive, “dog mentality,” and demeanor on the field.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

KINDER: My favorite road stadium to play in is MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and Jets.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

KINDER: Some things that I look forward to in life after football are having a family and one day being a great husband and father. In terms of a career, I look forward to helping facilitate growth and development in college students as they embark on their journey of self-discovery.

Beyond The Trophy: Colin Tanigawa, University of Washington


TANIGAWAName: Colin Tanigawa

College: University of Washington

Height, weight, class, position: 6-3, 292, senior, center

High School: Loyola HS in Pasadena, Calif.

About Colin Tanigawa: A starter on the offensive line since he was a redshirt freshman, Tanigawa has played guard and center for the Huskies. Twice his season has been cut short by knee injuries, though. He started 11 games as a redshirt freshman at left guard before missing the final two games. His sophomore season was cut short after only two games because of another knee injury. Last year he was named a team captain, and the co-founder and President of the Washington Chapter started every regular-season game at guard. This year he was moved to center and has been making the snaps and lines calls for the Huskies all season.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

TANIGAWA: My favorite part of the game day experience at Husky Stadium is going in after warm ups with the whole team, saying a prayer together, and coming out of the locker room right before the game starts and seeing the packed stadium full of fans.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

TANIGAWA: The main thing that drove me to get involved with Uplifting Athletes was using the position I am currently lucky to be in, to help others who are in need. I also wanted to get the University of Washington football program in touch with something as special as Uplifting Athletes.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

TANIGAWA: Probably would have to be playing and winning in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last year. It was a great experience to be able to spend a week in San Francisco, playing football in AT&T Park, and helping out at a food bank on Christmas.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?

TANIGAWA: LSU my sophomore year. Playing against those guys was especially different because they were a lot bigger and stronger guys that I have usually face.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

TANIGAWA: I would probably have to say Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. I’ve always been impressed by his speed, especially seeing it in person.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

TANIGAWA: Probably Marshawn Lynch because of how tough of a runner he is and how hard he is to bring down.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

TANIGAWA: The Rose Bowl, because I grew up in Pasadena always wishing to one day play in that stadium.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

TANIGAWA: I’m looking forward to seeing the skills I have learned through football translate into whatever career path I choose.

Beyond The Trophy: Jim Brown, Clemson University


JIM BROWNName: Jim Brown

College: Clemson University

Height, weight, class, position: 6-4, 230, redshirt junior, long snapper

High School: Pinewood Prep School in Walterboro, SC

About Jim Brown: Originally a walk-on at Clemson, the President of the newly formed Uplifting Athletes Chapter has earned a spot on the roster for the third consecutive season. Brown has appeared in two games for the Tigers, and is in line to become the starting long snapper next year. A management major, Brown was an ACC Academic Honor Roll member in 2012.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

BROWN: The best part about game day at Clemson has to be rubbing Howard’s Rock and running down the hill. It is a tradition like no other. Getting the chance to experience it in front of 81,000 fans makes it really special.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

BROWN: I became interested after Scott Shirley came and spoke to our football team about the organization. His story was incredibly inspiring and motivational.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

BROWN: My most memorable moment was probably the 2014 Orange Bowl. We had an amazing trip to Miami and topped it off with a big win against Ohio State.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?

BROWN: Our rivalry against the University of South Carolina is one of the best in the country. It’s always a tough game whether it’s home or away. The fans from both teams get really involved and make the rivalry special.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

BROWN: I got to watch a lot of football on Saturday since we had a Thursday night game, and one team that I really liked was TCU. I don’t know any players in particular, but their team was very impressive.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

BROWN: Chandler Catanzaro. He is a former Clemson kicker and now plays for the Arizona Cardinals. He just broke the rookie kicking record this season. Not only is he a great kicker, but he’s a super guy as well.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

BROWN: We played at Florida State this year and lost in a close one. I would have to say that was one of the toughest environments we have had to play in.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

BROWN: I know that the sport of football is not going to last forever for me. But its values don’t have to end when the game does. The priceless lessons, discipline, and experiences that football has taught me will be applied to whatever endeavors that I inquire in the real world. I am confident that these attributes will mold me into the successful individual that I aspire to be.

Beyond The Trophy: Michael Deeb, University of Notre Dame


MICHAEL DEEBName: Michael Deeb

College: University of Notre Dame

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 242, sophomore, linebacker

High School: American Heritage HS in Plantation, FL

About Michael Deeb: Only in his second year at Notre Dame, the prototype middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense is still working his way up the depth chart. Deeb had other offers coming out of high school including Florida State, Penn State and Ole Miss but chose the Fighting Irish. He became involved with Uplifting Athletes by sharing the same position with Notre Dame Chapter President Joe Schmidt. This season he’s appeared on special teams, but should see more playing time down the stretch. Schmidt, the starting MLB for the Irish, suffering an ankle injury last Saturday that ended his season.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

DEEB: My favorite part of the game day experience at our home stadium is the final seconds before opening kickoff. The refs blow the whistle, the crowd is going wild, and in that moment there is no where else in the world I’d rather be. No words can describe the feeling!

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

DEEB: Joe Schmidt has driven me to get involved with Uplifting Athletes. The experience for me has shown me the ability to make positive influence on the life of others through athletics. I love helping others and by participating in a sport that so many people watch we are able to reach out to a larger group and impact many lives.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

DEEB: My most memorable experience as a college football player was running out of the tunnel in our home stadium for the first time. Previously, the biggest crowd I had played against was maybe 3,000. A jam-packed 80,000-plus fan-filled stadium screaming for Notre Dame is an experience like no other. My first game freshman year going through that was almost overwhelming, but such a blessing and amazing feeling.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?

DEEB: I would say Florida State because it was our most recent game and our first loss unfortunately. FSU is the defending National Champion and a very talented team. I believe what makes them so difficult is their high talent level and athletic ability. Many of the kids on there team are from Florida like me so we grew up playing with and against each other on the field.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

DEEB: I enjoy watching one of my best friends Tyler Carmona play for Navy. We played on the same high school team and have developed a close bond over the years. The Naval Academy plays the game tough and instills core values that we also adhere to at Notre Dame.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

DEEB: I don’t have a favorite player because I don’t know many NFL linebackers personally. Rather, I watch many of the greats and try to apply many of their successful traits to my game. Each linebacker has strengths. I search for that when I watch them play and work on implementing it in my training so I can apply it on the field.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

DEEB: My favorite road stadium thus far was Florida State because the amount of friends and family I was able to have at the game in support. Growing up n Florida many of friends chose to attend college at FSU and it is driving distance from my home so my entire family attended.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

DEEB: After football I want to have built a positive brand in my name. I want to make helping others a constant for my family as long as I live. Whether its staying involved with the game through youth football or in the business world I want to be able to commit myself to helping others always.

Beyond The Trophy: Andrew Mackay, University of Virginia


MACKAYName: Andrew Mackay

College: University of Virginia

Height, weight, class, position: 6-2, 200, junior, quarterback

High School: W.T. Woodson HS in Fairfax, Va.

About Andrew Mackay: One of four quarterbacks on the Cavaliers roster, Mackay is the 12th member of his family to attend the University of Virginia. A standout quarterback and baseball player in high school, Mackay threw for more than 3,000 yards during his high school career in a run-based offense. The four-year scholar-athlete is part of the leadership team that is starting the Virginia Chapter.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

MACKAY: My favorite part of game day is definitely running out of the tunnel. When the smoke clears and you see all of the fans cheering for us it is one of the best feelings.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

MACKAY: My involvement with Uplifting Athletes has been sparked by Mr. Scott Shirley coming and talking to me and a couple of my teammates about this great cause. I want to be involved for the same reasons as many others, I’m sure, and it’s because we have a special opportunity as college football players to influence a large number of people to contribute to some very worthy causes.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

MACKAY: So far, my most memorable experience has been beating No. 21 Louisville at home this year. It was something we knew we could accomplish and it was great to show how hard we’ve been working together to accomplish our goals. It was also awesome to join the fans on the field afterwards and to see how happy they were as well.

What is the toughest team you’ve faced or regularly play, and what makes them so difficult?

MACKAY: I’d say the toughest team we’ve played since I’ve been here is Oregon. Their offense is second to none, and continuously presents a challenge to us that we are more than willing to accept. BYU is also a game that is always difficult and we look forward to every year.

Besides one of your teammates, name a college football player you enjoy watching?

MACKAY:  Personally I enjoy watching Bryce Petty for Baylor University. He is a great quarterback that plays hard every play for his teammates.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

MACKAY: My favorite NFL player is Tom Brady because he is always the most prepared player on the field at all times. He knows so much about the game and about leadership that he is someone that I model my game after.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

MACKAY: Virginia Tech is always a great atmosphere for a rivalry game.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football?

MACKAY: After football, I want to use what I have learned to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives however I can. I also what to make sure that I can provide for my family and give the same and more opportunities to my kids that my parents were able to provide for my sister and I.