Starting this season, the focus of the Rare Disease Champion Award shifted to a team concept in order to provide a platform to recognize all the qualified leaders that have made a significant and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. The Rare Disease Champion Team ensures all the inspiring rare disease stories of qualified leaders in college football are shared and celebrated. Uplifting Athletes will honor the 2019 Rare Disease Champion Team at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in Atlantic City and at the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft in Philadelphia March 6 and 7, respectively.
University: Davidson College
Vitals: 5-11, 201-pound, senior, linebacker
Quick Hits: George’s passion for and commitment to the rare disease cause led him to start an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Davidson College as a junior in 2018. He worked tirelessly to get the chapter started and engage his teammates in supporting the cause. Under George’s leadership, the Davidson Chapter held Lift For Life events and participated in Touchdown Pledge Drive in 2018 and 2019 and hosted the first Uplifting Experience at Davidson. These efforts led to the fourth highest fundraising total for a new chapter in Uplifting Athletes history and provided immeasurable inspiration for the Rare Disease Community.
INSIDE THE STORY
Personal relationships are a source of strength and have always inspired George.
George is one of those people with a personality whose passion and energy can light up a room. And nothing moves the native of Pennsylvania more than serving and helping others.
The credit for his commitment to others goes to his parents according to George. Even the best teachers know, though, having a prize pupil makes it a lot easier.
From as long back as he can remember, being a part of something bigger than yourself and making a commitment to help others was a cornerstone of growing up in the Hatalowich household.
His first taste of service in high school – the Special Olympics Buddy Program – was an eye opening experience for George. Naturally, he was pumped to have the opportunity to mentor and help somebody else. What he soon discovered, though, was that the relationship he struck up with his buddy was just as meaningful to him.
“It was something, looking back now, I never really expected. I had fully embraced the idea of service and being a part of something bigger and more important than myself,” George said. “What I discovered was the person or organization I was supposed to be serving ended up serving me. It was a two-way street and those relationships had a profound impact on me.”
As opportunities presented themselves during his high school years, George couldn’t help himself. He had the service to others bug and became a mentor, tutor and counselor for a variety of organizations.
The opportunity to play football in college was instrumental in shaping George’s decision where he would continue his career as a student-athlete. He saw opportunity seven hours from home in North Carolina.
“It was scary going away from home seven hours, not even having any mutual connections of any kind,” George said. “When I got there I wanted to stay true to who I was and what was important to me in high school. I wanted to keep the values I learned in high school.”
College campuses offer a wealth of opportunities to help and serve others. But George was looking to leave his own mark at Davidson.
Already armed with the knowledge of how a rare disease can impact a family through his good friendship with a high school teammate whose uncle battled ALS and whose father also was his high school head coach, George saw an opportunity through the Davidson football program and Uplifting Athletes.
After his sophomore season, George and Wildcats teammate Kevin Stipe joined forces to launch an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Davidson College.
The rare disease cause is extremely important to George and seeing the opportunity to include the entire team in supporting their cause drove the duo to leave no stone unturned when it came to making this happen.
“The impact rare diseases have on families was something I experienced first-hand. It impacted me. I understood the work and attention this underserved community needs,” George said. “Not just the patient is impacted. The whole family is impacted and that stuck with me and gave me the motivation to get Davidson on board as a chapter.”
THE RARE JOURNEY
A close relationship with the Klock family growing up gave George unique insight into what a rare disease, in this case ALS, can do to a family.
He took that experience with him to college and in late 2017 after his sophomore season the linebacker saw an opportunity to have an impact on the entire Rare Disease Community through starting an Uplifting Athletes Chapter.
Starting anything from the ground up always has its challenges, but George and his Davidson Chapter co-founder Kevin Stipe believed the Wildcats’ program was more than ready to make an impact.
So in 2018, after attending their first Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in January of that year, Kevin and George set off on their adventure and launched the Davidson Chapter.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was work, but we had so much support and help. Trey Klock was a mentor to me growing up and I saw what his family went through with ALS and how it impacted them. And I knew he was working with Uplifting Athletes at Georgia Tech and then Northwestern. So he was an outstanding resource,” George said. “I have come to know the staff at Uplifting Athletes and their passion. The relationships I’ve built with them are long-term relationships and I’m grateful for that. I’m the one who is blessed to have had this opportunity.”
Thanks to the leadership of George and Kevin, the Davidson Chapter held Lift For Life events and participated in Touchdown Pledge Drive each of the last two years and hosted the first Uplifting Experience at Davidson. These efforts led to the fourth highest fundraising total for a new chapter in Uplifting Athletes history.
A leader for the Wildcats both on and off the field, George received one of the highest honors in college football for work off the field late in his senior season. Chosen from a nomination pool that exceeded more than 135 players, George was one of 22 individuals honored as part of the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was established in 1991 to recognize a select group of college football players who have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others.
“Being chosen for that meant a lot. At the same time it represented a lot more than me. It represented my teammates, coaches and family,” George said. “To make real change in anything you do, you also need a strong team around you. Kevin and I have been talking about and working on getting this chapter started for three years. I could not have done it without him. Being chosen represented a lot more than just me.”
WHAT THEY SAID
“The biggest thing about Davidson College and Davidson football it attracts a certain type of person. A lot of them are passionate and are really determined individuals. When we started the chapter we were able to lay out why this was important and how we are going to do it. We told them we believe our team can make an impact. All we had to do was start a fire and the guys really lit it up.” – George Hatalowich