Former Syracuse All-American WR Amba Etta-Tawo will be Leaping For Rare Diseases at NFL Combine

amba-rfrd-17-graphicFormer Syracuse All-American Amba Etta-Tawo has chosen to make the 2017 NFL Combine a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

The wide receiver is doing a Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign to raise money for life saving rare disease research with Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge any amount for every vertical leap inch Etta-Tawo clears at the 2017 NFL Combine by visiting Etta-Tawo’s fundraising page to learn more. His goal is to raise $3,000.

Etta-Tawo was part of a Syracuse Chapter that started tackling rare diseases in 2013 when it joined Uplifting Athletes. The college football student-athlete led chapter held its third Lift For Life in 2016 and set a record by raising more than $20,000. The Syracuse Chapter also enjoys a special relationship with 8-year-old rare disease patient Lillian Belfield and her family.

Being part of the Syracuse Chapter was an important part of Etta-Tawo’s college experience and is why he chose to launch his Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign.

“It is an honor to be able to use the platform to help raise awareness and contribute to the research of rare diseases,” Etta-Tawo said. “What’s so special about this organization is that the proceeds not only help fund the research, but also helps patients suffering from these diseases.”

Make your pledge now to join Amba Etta-Tawo in the fight against rare diseases at the NFL Combine.

Former Penn State DE Garrett Sickels doing Reps For Rare Diseases at NFL Combine

sickels-rfrd-17-graphicFormer Penn State star Garrett Sickels has chosen to make the 2017 NFL Combine a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

The defensive end is doing a Reps For Rare Diseases campaign to raise money for life saving rare disease research with Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge any amount for every bench press repetition Sickels registers at the 2017 NFL Combine by visiting Sickels’ fundraising page to learn more. His goal is to raise $5,000.

From the first summer he was on campus, Sickels supported the rare disease community by participating in Penn State’s Lift For Life. He knew immediately Uplifting Athletes was an organization he wanted to get more involved with, so prior to his junior year he took over as the chapter president.

Since 2003, the Penn State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $1 million to support the rare disease community through its annual Lift For Life. This summer the Penn State Chapter will hold its 15th Lift For Life.

“Lift for Life and Uplifting Athletes was a very important part of my PSU experience,” Sickels said. “I’m proud to now pledge my performance on the bench press at the NFL Combine to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission.”

Make your pledge now to join Garrett Sickels in the fight against rare diseases at the NFL Combine.

Penn Chapter Lift For Life event set for March 2

penn-lift-for-life-1The leadership team for the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes is pleased to announce the Quakers will hold their second annual Lift For Life event on Thursday, March 2.

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event for the Uplifting Athletes student-athlete led college football chapter network nationwide.

The Lift For Life will take place at the Quakers’ strength and conditioning facility during their annual lifting competition, the Iron Quaker. The competition phase of this event will be comprised of offense, defense and special teams groups going head-to-head during bench press max-out competitions.

Supporters of the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes can pledge based on the average weight in pounds lifted during the bench press max-out competition. You can learn more by visiting the Penn Quakers fundraising page.

Proceeds from the Penn Lift For Life will benefit Uplifting Athletes, which supports rare disease research and patient focused programs.


Each Uplifting Athletes Chapter has its own unique rare disease inspiration. All Uplifting Athletes Chapters strive to inspire the rare disease community through the power of sport.

Moved by former wide receiver Kaleb Germinaro, who lost his playing career to a rare disease , Dr. David Fajgenbaum, a Castleman’s Disease Researcher who has the disease himself, and Vhito Decapria, a 6-year-old team captain and brain cancer survivor, the Penn Chapter started tackling rare diseases when it joined Uplifting Athletes in 2015.

The 2017 Quakers are pumped to raise awareness and funds in support of rare diseases. And they need your help to do that.

Thanks for joining the Penn Chapter and Uplifting Athletes as rare disease teammates!

Catching up with 2016 Rare Disease Champion, USC long snapper Jake Olson

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2016 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Jake Olson is one of the 1 in 10 Americans affected by one of more than 7,000 rare diseases.

The native of southern California was born with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eyes. He lost his left eye when he was 10 months old and despite numerous procedures on his right eye, he lost his sight completely to this rare disease in 2009 at the age of 12.

A huge USC Trojans fan all his life, Olson watched as much USC football as possible before losing his sight. When former Trojans coach Pete Carroll learned of Olson’s story he invited him to practices, Carroll then went a step further and made Olson an honorary member of the team.

The loss of his sight never slowed Olson down as he continued to flourish on so many levels. During his final two years of high school, Olson was the varsity long snapper for the football team at Orange Lutheran. And in 2015, as a true freshman, he earned a spot on the roster as an invited walk on for the team he grew up loving, the USC Trojans.

Olson just completed his second season with the Trojans and is busy navigating his sophomore year in college. We decided to catch up with the student, college football player, author and motivational speaker.

Uplifting Athletes: Let’s start with school and your studies in this your sophomore year. Tell us about exactly what you are studying and some of your thoughts in terms of a career?

Olson: I am studying Business Administration and plan to get an emphasis in finance. I hope to eventually become an investment banker while continuing to do motivational speaking. I also am thinking about getting into the broadcasting field. At the end of the day, my main goal is to do something where I can continue to make a positive impact on society.

Uplifting Athletes: This was your second season as part of the USC Trojans football team. How was the 2016 season different than year No. 1 as a member of the Trojans?

Olson: Although we did face adversity in the beginning of this season, we continued to grow as a team under the steady hand of Coach Helton. Personally, I gained a much better understanding of what it took to succeed on the USC football team both physically and mentally. This year I was able to accomplish much more in practice. Overall, there was more stability.

Uplifting Athletes: You saw some action in the spring game last year. What was that experience like?

Olson: It was a surreal experience to take the field as a member of the team I grew up idolizing. I never believed it would happen, and I am so thankful to all the people who helped me reach that point. The support of Trojan fans blew me away. It was also a sign to me that if I continue to work hard in practice and in the classroom, I could see game action for the Trojans.

Uplifting Athletes: We have to ask about the Rose Bowl game against Penn State. You’ve experienced plenty as a life-long Trojans fan. What was it like to be a part of a game that special and dramatic while wearing the cardinal and gold and being on the field?

Olson: It was the most memorable experience of my life for sure. I finally feel like the Trojans are back on top, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. More than anything, it got me really excited for the years to come. Being part of a game like that is something I will remember for the rest of my life and tell my kids and grandkids about.

Uplifting Athletes: It is an honor to have you listed as one of our Rare Disease Champions. Your story has touched so many, but what do you see as the next chapter of that story?

Olson: The next step for me would be snapping in a USC game. That is my end goal. After college, I hope to find a way to continue to inspire people and use the platform I have already developed to help spread my message.

Iowa State defensive end Mitchell Meyers wins 2017 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion award

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Iowa State University defensive end Mitchell Meyers is the ninth winner of the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion award.

Meyers earned more votes than the other three 2017 finalists in a public online vote that opened January 9 and closed at midnight on January 31.

The Cyclones’ defensive end outlasted a field of finalists that included: Pitt running back James Conner, Michigan fullback Michael Hirsch and Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams.

The Rare Disease Champion Award is presented annually by Uplifting Athletes to a leader in the world of college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.

Meyers will be presented with the 2017 Rare Disease Champion trophy as part of the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala on March 10th at The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.

Meyers endured a long and difficult 18-month journey with the rare disease Hodgkin’s lymphoma. An impact player in 2013 and 2014 for the Cyclones, Meyers lost his 2015 season when he was diagnosed in February of that year.

During his roller coaster 13-month chemotherapy and radiation treatments, getting back to school and playing football again were always in the back of Meyers’ mind. He made it back to the ISU camp in the spring and was cleared for full contact just prior to preseason camp for the 2016 season.

After 18 months away from the game, Meyers not only earned a starting spot but also became a big-time contributor up front defensively for the Cyclones this past season. He played all season, recorded 30 tackles and was named to the Academic All-Big 12 team.

Meyers was voted as a team captain for the 2016 season and wore the No. 58 for the Cyclones. Each year Iowa State hands the No. 58 jersey to a lineman who best embodies the spirit of a beloved former coach who died suddenly in 2014.

Previous winners of the Rare Disease Champion award include: American Football Coaches Association Executive Director Grant Teaff (2009); Dickinson College quarterback Ian Mitchell (2010); Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath (2011); Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead (2012); Penn State offensive lineman Eric Shrive (2013), Nebraska fullback C.J. Zimmerer (2014), Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (2015) and USC long snapper Jake Olson (2016).

Voting to determine 2017 Rare Disease Champion hits the stretch run

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Voting to determine the ninth winner of the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion award has reached the home stretch.

The 2017 winner is decided by a public online vote that runs until midnight on January 31st. You can vote once each day for your favorite finalist.

Each year since 2009, Uplifting Athletes has recognized a leader in college football that realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community as the Rare Disease Champion. USC long snapper Jake Olson was the 2016 winner.

This year the four finalists are: James Conner, Pitt; Michael Hirsch, Michigan; Mitchell Meyers, Iowa State and Dexter Williams, Notre Dame.

Voting to determine the 2017 Rare Disease Champion started on January 9th, and with less than a week remaining Iowa State defensive Meyers is leading the way.

The 2017 Rare Disease Champion will officially be announced on February 1st to kick off Rare Disease Month. And the winner will be formally honored as part of the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala on March 10th at Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City.

Illinois Chapter President Joe Spencer named Wooden Citizen Cup Finalist

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Illinois football center Joe Spencer was recently announced as a finalist for the Wooden Citizen Cup, an award given to the most outstanding role model among athletes.

The award, named after famed UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, is given to one college, professional and high school athlete (or athletic figure) per year for character and leadership both on and off the field and for contributions to sport and society. Athletes for a Better World is presenting the Wooden Cup for the 13th year.

Spencer’s work in the community and the classroom has been incredible during his four years in Champaign. The 2016 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees’ long list of community involvement includes serving as president of Illinois’ Uplifting Athletes chapter, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, raising nearly $40,000 for charity in two years by organizing the Illini’s “Lift for Life,” helping organize Illinois’ student-athlete variety show that has raised more than $80,000 in the last five years, being a “Big” at the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, spearheading the Leadership Summit for local middle school students, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and visiting nearly every elementary school in Champaign-Urbana.

Spencer was a team captain for the 2016 Illini football team and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors by the media. He started 37 games during his Illinois career, including 11 this season. Spencer is enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Illinois after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance in May 2016.

Recipients of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup are determined by the Wooden Cup Selection Committee after reviewing voting by the Board of Directors and over 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country.

The 2017 Collegiate Wooden Cup recipient will be announced at an award ceremony in April in Atlanta.

On behalf of the rare disease community Uplifting Athletes serves, thank you Joe Spencer for using your platform as a college football student athlete to inspire others with hope.