44 NFL prospects join 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases campaign for NFL Pro Day workouts


For the fifth consecutive year, Uplifting Athletes is empowering NFL prospects with the opportunity to use their NFL Pro Day as a platform to give back by raising funds and awareness in support of the Rare Disease Community.

The Reps For Rare Diseases Campaign is one of the first opportunities for these athletes to create an impact using their platform as professional athletes. Uplifting Athletes is excited to work with these outstanding individuals to help them give back during this very pivotal time of their lives.

This year Uplifting Athletes currently has 44 players who chose to participate in Reps For Rare Diseases 2019 as part of their NFL Pro Day workout.

“We would like to thank all the athletes participating in Reps For Rare Diseases and wish all of our participants the best of luck in the pursuit of their professional careers,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact and NFL veteran Brett Brackett said. “We believe this is a special group that stands out for the right reasons amongst their peers. Any NFL team would be lucky to have one of these men representing their organization.”

The Uplifting Athletes 2019 Reps For Rare Diseases Pro Day Team is comprised from 18 different college football programs.

Clayton Thorson, Flynn Nagel, Jake Collins, Blake Hance, Jordan Thompson, Jared McGee and Tommy Doles all hail from Northwestern. Representing NC State are A.J. Cole, Terronne Prescod, Steph Louis and Reggie Gallaspy, Jr. From Penn State its Koa Farmer, Nick Scott, Kyle Vasey and Jake Cooper. And Tyler Newsome, Miles Boykin, Julian Love, Sam Mustipher, Nic Weishar and Justin Yoon from Notre Dame.

The quartet from Princeton includes John Lovett, Cody Smith, Steve Carlson and Charlie Volker. Maryland has Brendan Moore and Ty Johnson. Representing Georgia Tech are Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Andrew Marshall, while Eric Dungey and Kielan Whitner come from Syracuse.

Alec Eberle and Derrick Kelly II come out of Florida State and Antonio Jackson and Lawrence Menyah played for Fordham.

Other schools representatives include: Nick Allegretti from Illinois, Clemson’s Milan Richard, Chris Myarick of Temple, Jon Reschke from Michigan State, Nick Giorgio of Springfield, Kansas’ Mavin Saunders, Jamauri Bogan of Western Michigan and Craig Reynolds from Kutztown.

Fans and supporters can become teammates of any one of our NFL Pro Day participants this year and help Uplifting Athletes Tackle Rare Diseases by simply making a pledge for every bench press repetition or each vertical/broad jump inch the player achieves.

Visit the Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases 2019 team landing page, choose your favorite player and make your pledge today.

The proceeds from Reps For Rare Diseases support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

The first Reps For Rare Diseases campaign was run by former Penn State and current Detroit Lions tight end Jesse James.

Since James launched this program in 2015 other current NFL veterans such as Justin Watson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Jason Cabinda (Oakland Raiders), Justin Jackson (San Diego Chargers), Mike McGlinchey (San Francisco 49ers), Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins), Josh Adams (Philadelphia Eagles), Malik Turner (Seattle Seahawks), Grant Haley (New York Giants), Anthony Zettel (Cleveland Browns), Andrew Billings (Cincinnati Bengals), Garrett Sickels (Los Angeles Rams), and Chad Kanoff (Arizona Cardinals) have used Reps For Rare Diseases as a platform to support the Rare Disease Community.

“Uplifting Athletes prides itself in helping athletes realize their potential to make a positive impact on the Rare Disease Community. Our Reps for Rare Diseases campaign is another unique example of this,” Brackett said.

Uplifting Athletes’ 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta covered a lot of ground


The essential core of the Uplifting Leaders program is the college football student-athletes that steer our chapters at universities across the country.

This past weekend more than 40 individual leaders from 20 college football programs traveled to Atlanta for the 10th annual Leadership Development Conference.

The three-day conference was hosted by Uplifting Athletes, and run by Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett, a former Penn State Chapter President who attended the inaugural conference in 2010.

“Uplifting Athletes is grateful to be engaged with such enthusiastic student-athletes motivated to leverage their platform for good,” Brackett said. “I am excited to see how this group of student-athletes takes the knowledge gained from the conference and uses the power of sport to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

Following a meet-and-greet team dinner Friday night, the conference kicked off Saturday morning with a full day of programming that was driven by Uplifting Athletes four program pillars – Uplifting Leaders, Uplifting Experiences, Rare Disease Awareness and Rare Disease Research.

Morning sessions covering the four programs were followed by a panel of former college football student-athletes sharing their stories and advice about making the transition from student-athlete to the professional world.

The lively and open discussion was spearheaded by panelists Pat Boyle, Drew Butler, Stephon Morris and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.

“The conference was a great experience for me to learn more how to utilize my platform to impact the Rare Disease Community,” Penn State Chapter leader Sean Clifford said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to represent Penn State Football and grow as a leader.”

To kick off the afternoon, Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long shared his story about being a rare disease patient and how that shaped him to become a leader, advocate and difference maker for the Rare Disease Community.

Long’s hour-long presentation set the table for a tour of the College Football Hall of Fame and an Uplifting Experience where nearly 20 rare disease patients, caregivers and family members teamed up with the student-athletes.

“For me Leadership Development Conference 2019 was all about the people. You are surrounded with other college football players from all around the country and get to learn about their own connections with rare diseases and how much it affects us all,” Northwestern Chapter leader Joe Spivak said. “And then to be paired with a family going through the fight at the College Football Hall of Fame puts everything in that much more perspective.

“Those interactions, along with all the work with everyone from the Uplifting Athletes staff, showed me the true difference we can make in this community through the power of the sport we are all so blessed to be a part of.”

Gabe Low, a 17-year-old Hawaii native who was born with a rare genetic disorder, took center stage on Sunday to share his story about why he did the 3,500-mile Ride For Rare Diseases and talked about the impact of awareness created by using his platform.

The conference also featured sessions on Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive and next steps moving forward as these leaders prepare for 2019.

“If their attentiveness and commitment at the conference is any sign of what’s to come from this group of leaders … I believe 2019 could be something special,” Brackett said. “Their level of engagement leads me to believe we will see a high level of awareness and fundraising for the Rare Disease Community through Uplifting Athletes chapters across the country.”

Among the 20 schools that were represented in Atlanta, two of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico had student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan were also in attendance.

A special thank you to all our supporters who made this conference possible. With your help, these young men are making a difference in the Rare Disease Community.

Uplifting Athletes to welcome 40-plus college football student-athletes for 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta


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The bedrock of the Uplifting Leaders program at Uplifting Athletes is the college football student-athletes that guide our nationwide network of chapters.

These student-athletes already have the drive and passion to help others and that is why they chose to step up and become chapter leaders to help us serve the Rare Disease Community.

In order to help them become even stronger leaders and advocates, Uplifting Athletes will gather these college football student-athletes together in late January for three days of education, training and networking at the 2019 Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta.

This will be the 10th consecutive year Uplifting Athletes has put together a weekend of intense leadership development and relationship building for current and prospective chapter leaders.

“We are thrilled to host a fantastic group of student-athletes for a three-day conference focused on enhancing life skills, transferable skills recognition, and leadership development through Uplifting Athletes programming,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett said. “Our goal is to provide the student-athletes with the skills necessary to returned to campus empowered to make a positive impact on the Rare Disease Community.

This year 40 current football players from 20 universities across the country will travel to Atlanta on Friday, January 25 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

Among the 20 schools that will be represented in Atlanta, four of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico have student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Illinois, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan will also be in attendance.

The 2019 Leadership Development Conference will kick off with a team meal Friday night prior to a full weekend agenda.

The conference content is developed and driven by the Uplifting Athletes staff, but will also feature a panel of former student-athletes answering questions about the transition to the professional world.

Included in the workshop sessions on Saturday and Sunday are an overview of Uplifting Athletes, Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive event planning and transferable life skills development.

The highlight of Saturday will be an Uplifting Experience for the student-athletes to interact with local Atlanta area rare disease patients.

We are very excited to bring this group together to learn from each other, to strategize together and to foster the sense of teamwork that inspires us all.

A successful 2018 Year In Review


HappyHolidays-UAMay your days be filled with Peace, Hope and Joy this Holiday Season!

On behalf of the 30 million Americans that comprise the Rare Disease Community, our staff and team of college football student-athletes thank you for your loyalty and support in 2018!  It has been a memorable year and we thank you for helping us achieve our mission.

Most recently, our team was able to be a part of an Uplifting Experience in Seattle. Former University of Illinois and current Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, Malik Turner, hosted a rare disease patient family for the day at the Seahawks facility. Turner continued to build on that relationship during the NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign by securing tickets for ADNP patient Tony Sermone and his family for the game. One of his cleats had the initials “T” and “S” on the back in Tony’s honor. After the game Malik was able to present the signed cleat he wore in the game to Tony.

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Without your support this type of Uplifting Experience would not be possible. Would you consider making a year-end donation to Uplifting Athletes?

2018 also featured plenty of new and exciting milestones for Uplifting Athletes including:

-New Uplifting Athletes chapters established at Western Michigan, Davidson and Lehigh.

-38 NFL prospects participated in our Reps For Rare Diseases campaign during their NFL Combine and individual pro day workouts.

-Held our inaugural Young Investigator Draft in August at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and scheduled our 2019 event for March 9th back at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Young Investigator Draft is the result of our ongoing commitment to rare disease research. In 2018 we distributed six $10,000 grants to six individual researchers.

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-During the 2018 season, the first ever Rare Disease Awareness Games were held involving Uplifting Athletes Chapter match-ups between Syracuse vs. Western Michigan and Penn vs. Princeton. The chapters wore Uplifting Athletes helmets stickers, #WeTackleRare wristbands and recognized local rare disease patient families during a game break.

-We crowned Coach Joshua Eargle from Austin Peay State University as the 11th winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award – given to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community. We also enjoyed seeing our 10th winner of the award, Shaquem Griffin from UCF, selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

These are just a few of the 2018 highlights. We have bigger and bolder plans for 2019. As always, though, we need your help.

Please consider giving a gift to support the Rare Disease Community we serve. We can’t do any of this without you!

#WeTackleRare

Scott, Rob, Brett, John, Karen and Andy

 

 

Five Uplifting Ambassadors shine a spotlight on rare diseases during NFL My Cause My Cleats


CAM CLEATS 2We are proud to share that five NFL players have chosen to shine a spotlight on the rare disease cause with their cleats.

The NFL’s annual My Cause My Cleats kicked off this week and Uplifting Athletes cleats will be worn in NFL games by Cameron Lynch, Riley Dixon, Malik Turner, Garry Gilliam and Zaire Franklin.

All five of these players are from schools that have a college football student-athlete led Uplifting Athletes Chapter.

“What strikes me is these NFL players supporting the Rare Disease Community have a choice to make when it comes to their cleats. This is very personal decision for them. We are thrilled they chose their platform to support our cause with their cleats. Collectively we are shining a spotlight on rare diseases and inspiring others with hope.” – Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long

Cameron Lynch, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Lynch arrived at Syracuse University when the Orange players were working to start an Uplifting Athletes Chapter. This is the second consecutive year Lynch has made rare diseases his cause.

“During My Cause, My Cleats, I have decided to support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and the 30 million Americans affected by rare diseases. Approximately 50 percent of people affected by rare diseases are children and I am proud to help spread the word so that those battling rare diseases know they are not alone.” – Cameron Lynch

Riley Dixon, Punter, New York Giants

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Dixon came to Syracuse when Long was a GA and the common bond of being punters sparked a lasting friendship. This is the second year Dixon has supported the Rare Disease Community with his cleats.

“Uplifting Athletes raises money as well as empowers people to take action against rare diseases – when I was at Syracuse, our long-snapper Sam Rodgers, started Uplifting Athletes for former Syracuse punter Rob Long, who had brain cancer in 2010 and is seven years cancer-free. Through the college sports platform, we raise money for these rare diseases.” – Riley Dixon

 Malik Turner, WR, Seattle Seahawks

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The rare disease cause has become very personal for the Seahawks rookie and former Illinois standout. He was introduced to the cause through the Illini Chapter, was moved by a personal story of a fellow Illinois student he met in class and has extended that 1-on-1 relationship to the NFL by recently hosting a rare disease patient family for an Uplifting Experience at the Seahawks facility.

“What draws me closer to the rare disease cause is personally connecting with someone that has gone through the struggle. That definitely drew me closer to it.” – Malik Turner

Zaire Franklin, LB, Indianapolis Colts

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Franklin participated in every Lift For Life during his time at Syracuse and has become an Uplifting Ambassador in 2018. The Colts rookie participated in Reps For Rare Diseases in conjunction with his NFL Pro Day and is now using his cleats to show the Rare Disease Community his commitment to the cause to inspire them with hope.

Garry Gilliam Jr., OL, San Francisco 49ers

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This is the second in a row year Gilliam has used his cleats to highlight the rare disease cause. During his time at Penn State Gilliam participated in Lift For Life and was a strong fundraiser to support the mission of Uplifting Athletes. Gilliam played high school football in the same Central Pennsylvania conference as Uplifting Athletes Founder Scott Shirley so Gilliam was familiar with the rare disease cause when he arrived at Penn State and has remained a supporter for nearly a decade.

In conjunction with My Cause My Cleats each member of the Uplifting Athletes team has agreed to run a fundraising campaign to support the cause and help Tackle Rare Diseases.

Please consider making a donation to one of these five Uplifting Ambassadors today!

The proceeds from My Cause My Cleats support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

Beyond The Finalist: Get to know University of Illinois offensive lineman Nick Allegretti


ALLEGRETTI 1819 FINALIST GRAPHICThe Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award, part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), is given annually to a leader in college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the Rare Disease Community.

We afforded each finalist for the 11th Rare Disease Champion Award the opportunity to be featured in our Beyond The Finalist series.

Name: Nick Allegretti

University: University of Illinois

Position: Offensive Line

What about your journey do you always make sure to share when telling your story?

Allegretti: When my brother was diagnosed with his rare disease, I was extremely scared to hear the word cancer and as a young child and I was afraid of all of the negative things that would come with it. However, the doctors and my parents assured me that the treatment plan would get rid of his tumor and there would be nothing to worry about. I believed in this and after years of battling my brother was cured. As a naïve child I believed that this was how all illnesses worked and I did not realize that many people were turned away without a treatment plan. When I realized this, I finally understood how important the work that Uplifting Athletes is doing was to the Rare Disease Community and I knew that I had to help in any way possible.

Can you tell us your ‘welcome to college football (either as a player or coach) moment’?

Allegretti: I can remember the first time we had “optional workouts” over my first summer. In high school I played many sports and had multiple extra curriculars that would conflict with certain sports optional workouts. As a college athlete you have school and then football, and if it’s not class…it’s not a conflict.

What is the one piece of advice or encouragement that’s stuck with you over time? Who gave it to you and what is it?

Allegretti: As a true freshman we were playing a game at Nebraska, which is an electric environment and I remember our offensive coordinator, Bill Cubit, telling us before the game to enjoy the moment and realize the magnitude of the event. From that game on I always tried to take a few seconds out of every game to truly understand how special playing college football is and how much it has meant to me.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Allegretti: Four Brothers – It is a movie about a group of four adopted brothers trying to avenge their mother’s death. I have probably seen some better movies before, but the connection that the brothers share is similar to the relationship that I have with my brother. And the family aspect of the movie, although quite violent, is one of a kind.

If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

Allegretti: Alexander Hamilton – He is one of the founding fathers of our country and the first ever Secretary of Treasury and is largely responsible for the beginning of our country’s monetary system. As a coin collector that would go on the study and collect this system, I am very appreciative.

Your favorite aspect of being a part of college football?

Allegretti: My favorite part about being a college football player is the camaraderie that is built with your teammates. When you commit to a university, you usually know very few players and their backgrounds but by the end of your time you have built hundreds of relationships with people you never would have met without college football. And a lot of these relationships will last for life.

Last few songs you downloaded?

Allegretti: My Top 5 songs: The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Band; It’s a Great Day to Be Alive – Travis Tritt; In Color – Jamie Johnson; Watching You – Rodney Atkins; Springsteen – Eric Church

What would winning the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award mean to you?

Allegretti: Winning this award would mean the world to me. From working with uplifting athletes over the past four years I have met some incredible people and heard some unbelievable stories within the organization. I have also learned how helpful Uplifting Athletes is for the Rare Disease Community and how important it is to spread the word to continue battling rare diseases. To be able to represent this organization and community as the Rare Disease Champion would be an incredible honor.

For Seattle Seahawks WR Malik Turner the rare disease cause is personal


Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver Malik Turner is passionate about the rare disease cause.

He took part in Lift For Life as a member of the Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. Turner also supported his cause by participating in the Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases campaign for his NFL Pro Day.

It was during his Reps For Rare Diseases campaign that Turner made the connection that one of his University of Illinois classmates, Holt Erikson, was a rare disease patient. Once he learned more about Holt’s story, Turner felt a deeper connection to his friend.  The rare disease cause became personal.

“What draws me closer to the rare disease cause is personally connecting with someone that has gone through the struggle,” Turner said. “That definitely drew me closer to it.”

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That deep and personal relationship moved Turner to do everything in his power to use his platform as an elite athlete to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.

And Turner was not going to let an injury derail his commitment to making a difference for the Rare Disease Community.

Two weeks prior to his Pro Day workout Turner suffered a fracture in his foot. That injury meant he would not be able to participate in the biggest workout of his life.

Turner felt compelled, though, to honor his commitment to the rare disease cause and on his Pro Day still participated in the bench press. With his friend Holt on his mind, Turner went out and beat his bench press goal by one repetition despite being injured.

MALIK 1When he made it to the NFL, Turner wanted to continue that deeply personal 1-on-1 relationship with those battling rare diseases.

Once Turner secured a spot on the Seahawks roster, he almost immediately started looking for ways to do even more to support his cause. Working together, Turner and Uplifting Athletes teamed up to host an Uplifting Experience for a rare disease patient family in the greater Seattle area.

Earlier this month Turner hosted ADNP patient Tony Sermone, his twin brother Rocco and Tony’s parents, Sandra and Rich at the Seattle Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center for several hours.

They toured the Seahawks locker room, interacted with other Seattle players, worked out on the practice field together and Turner walked them through a day in the life of an NFL player.

It was during this experience that Turner was able to show his passion for the rare disease cause – unveiling the cleats he will wear for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign during this Sunday’s game at home against San Francisco.

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Above the Seattle skyline painted on the on the back of his right cleat, are the initials “T” and “S” in Tony’s honor. The initials “H” and “E” are on the back of left cleat above the block “I” University Illinois logo to honor Holt.

“I needed to be more aware of exactly what rare means and how it’s not funded and needs more attention. Connecting to Holt and Tony made me want to dig deeper,” Turner said. “I didn’t know whom I impacted and when I saw that … it impacted me.

“Those little things that are bigger than me and bigger than football is something that’s important to me.”

Turner has chosen the Rare Disease Community as his cause and is supporting Uplifting Athletes during the NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign.

He is asking you to support his cause by making a donation through his Tackle Rare Diseases campaign.

The proceeds raised by Turner’s My Cause My Cleats campaign supports the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

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