As college football players at Penn State we were very aware of our position of social influence. Along with our jerseys we were also given a spotlight. Some athletes despise it, some deflect it and some learn to merely “live with it.” But fortunately, some athletes take this spotlight and turn it into a moment to shine – hoping to make a difference by daring to live B1G.
The Big Ten Network has done a great job telling our story – the story of how my father’s grim diagnosis with a rare disease inspired a group of Penn State football players to start a movement that has transcended any one person, disease or team. This movement has since spread to five other B1G Ten football teams and 15 college football teams in total. Together we have raised nearly 2 million dollars on the fundamental ideas that there are good kids on every team and that collectively they can mobilize their fans toward a cause they are passionate about.
“Success with honor” is a foundation rooted deeply in the Penn State culture that existed long before Damone Jones, Dave Costlow and I ever planned our first “Lift For Life” event. And it’s this foundation which I believe breeds the type of supportive coaches, administration and powerful fan base that encouraged us to run with our vision. Uplifting Athletes exists today because of this culture at Penn State and these positive ripples continue to roll across the college football landscape.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as the Executive Director of Uplifting Athletes is the opportunity to watch student-athletes mature as leaders through their participation in a chapter. After fellow Uplifting Athletes teams battle on the field, I watch the officers seek each other out after the game in a moment of great sportsmanship beyond the final score. I’m also getting to watch new treatments for rare diseases develop and come to market. Uplifting Athletes “lettermen” are graduating law school, business school, med school or taking jobs with Fortune 500 companies. We have now enough “alumni” playing in the NFL to field two full rosters.
Uplifting Athletes was never about one person, one team or one disease. It’s about each of us learning to leverage the position we’re in each in to make a positive and lasting impact. As student athletes we’re given a spotlight and Uplifting Athletes was created on the idea that this spotlight has the power to draw focus on the rare disease community and the inspiring efforts of students across the nation. That’s how we LiveB1G.