Each spring Uplifting Athletes brings together the student-athlete leaders from our Chapter network across the country for a weekend of training and camaraderie guided by the Uplifting Athletes staff.
This year the eighth annual Leadership Retreat took place in late May at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago and featured a record 31 student-athletes from 17 Uplifting Athletes Chapters.
Student-athletes representing Arizona, Clemson, Colgate, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Northern Arizona, Maryland, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Princeton, Penn State, Purdue, St. Francis, Stony Brook, Syracuse, and Washington.
“It was a great retreat, and we all learned a lot,” said Princeton Chapter leader Zachary Kuehm, a junior offensive lineman from New Jersey. “Being at the retreat really opened my eyes even more to the great cause that we all are fighting for.
“And it is truly unique to see so many dedicated athletes band together to fight rare diseases.”
The weekend kicked off with the student-athletes traveling in from all over the country Friday afternoon followed by a getting acquainted dinner with the Uplifting Athletes staff and members of the NCAA Compliance team.
Put through their paces by the four members of the Uplifting Athletes staff, Saturday was an intense day of learning and training on the finer points of being a chapter leader.
The Saturday sessions included an Uplifting Athletes overview from Executive Director and Founder Scott Shirley, chapter event planning with Becky Mayes, communications and how to tell your story with Andy Shay and chapter marketing and social media with Mark Mihalik.
30 college football student-athletes from 17 different chapters joined us today for our Leadership Retreat at NU. pic.twitter.com/U3ztq2jJlB
— Uplifting Athletes (@UpliftingAth) May 21, 2016
Also included in the Saturday programming was an athletics department overview by Brian Baptiste, a Deputy Director of Athletics at Northwestern. And Uplifting Athletes Letterman Zak Pedersen, who founded the Illinois Chapter, stopped by to share his experience and talked about life after college football.
“The leadership retreat was really an awesome experience,” said Penn Chapter President Sam Tullman. “Not only were there a number of presentations with truly valuable takeaways, but more importantly, there was an air of creativity, collaboration and excitement.
“The connections made to other upstanding individuals are something I cherish, and something I see developing into fruitful relationships.”
Before the student-athletes hit the road Sunday afternoon, Mayes went over the nuts and bolts of running a Touchdown Pledge Drive, an open discussion session on getting teammates involved and wrapped up the weekend with a work session on the path forward and the next steps.
In prior years the annual Leadership Retreat was pretty much limited to the east coast in terms of geography. Last year, Uplifting Athletes held two retreats – in Harrisburg and Chicago.
This was the first time it was a held exclusively in Chicago and getting more than 30 student-athletes leaders all together provided a vehicle for learning and sharing that will ultimately greatly benefit the rare disease community.
“The Leadership Retreat was awesome. Getting to know college football players from all around the country was very special,” said Clemson Chapter President and punter Andy Teasdall. “We are in a unique position as leaders to share our Uplifting Athletes college football story and life experiences about serving and helping those with rare diseases.”