Annual Leadership Development Conference arms student-athlete chapter leaders with tools for success

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As Uplifting Athletes continues to evolve and expand its footprint as a champion of the rare disease community, our nationwide chapter network led by current college football student-athletes continues to be the rock of our foundation.

Educating and training these leaders on the mission and vision of Uplifting Athletes is critical to being able to use the power of sport to inspire the rare disease community with hope. We want to enable these student-athletes to have the biggest impact they can.

This past weekend in Philadelphia, 23 chapter leaders from 14 universities came together for Leadership Development Conference 2017.

Led by the Uplifting Athletes staff, the conference was three days of education, training and relationship building all centered around making a greater impact on the rare disease community.

“I wasn’t aware of how much Uplifting Athletes has done and is doing. The platform we have is such an opportunity,” said Christian Groomes, a chapter leader from Clemson. “It was cool to see all the opportunities we have to raise money and support rare diseases. I think we are going to be a hit at Clemson with some of the ideas we have now.”

Chapter leaders from Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Syracuse, Illinois, Florida State, Maryland, Stony Brook, Penn and Saint Francis committed a weekend of their short offseason to attend the conference.

Included in the workshop sessions on Saturday and Sunday were an overview of Uplifting Athletes, a team building exercise, Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive event planning, transferable life skills development, communication and social media training, and an introduction to rare disease patient engagement through Uplifting Experiences.

There was also a breakout session hosted by Kristen Angell from the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD).

In between work sessions, the student-athletes were able to experience some of the unique sights of Philadelphia. There was a cheesesteak lunch in Logan Park followed by a trip to the Art Museum and the “Rocky Steps” for team pictures. Lunch on Sunday was outside the famous City Hall, and the players were free Saturday evening to explore the city and spend some off time together.

“It was a great experience overall. I learned a lot and it was great to get to know the guys from other schools,” Penn State Chapter leader Jason Cabinda said. “There was a lot I can take back to the rest of the guys and share that will help us going forward.”


Uplifting Athletes set to host 24 student-athlete chapter leaders for 2017 Leadership Development Conference

LDC 17 GRAPHICFor our eighth consecutive year, we will gather college football student-athletes that are current or future chapter leaders together for three days of education and training during the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference.

This year 24 current football players from 13 universities across the country will travel to Philadelphia on Friday, May 19 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

Chapter leaders from Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Syracuse, Illinois, Florida State, Maryland, Stony Brook, Penn and Saint Francis will start the 2017 conference with a team meal Friday night prior to a full Saturday agenda.

The weekend agenda is driven by the Uplifting Athletes staff, but will also feature a breakout session focused on the rare disease community hosted by Kristen Angell from the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD).

Included in the workshop sessions on Saturday and Sunday are an overview of Uplifting Athletes, a team building exercise, Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive event planning, transferable life skills development, communication and social media training, and an introduction to rare disease patient engagement through Uplifting Experiences.

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.


Former Syracuse Chapter Vice President Eric Anthony honored for work with Uplifting Athletes

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Senior Eric Anthony was one of three Syracuse student-athletes who earned recognition recently at the 2017 Syracuse University 44 Stars of Excellence Awards Gala.

The former vice president of the Syracuse Chapter of Uplifting Athletes was honored for his demonstration of outstanding dedication and commitment to a student organization and its mission.

Anthony earned the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service Award for his commitment to the community.

In addition to his work with Uplifting Athletes, Anthony served as the 2016-17 Syracuse Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) vice president of community outreach. He earned undergraduate degrees in finance and real estate from the Whitman School of Management. At Syracuse, Anthony has helped spearhead the effort to raise more than $25,000 for children fighting rare diseases, delivered Easter baskets to children at Golisano Children’s Hospital and brought the Beads of Courage program to Syracuse Athletics. He also won the 2017 ACC Top 6 Service award.

On behalf of the rare disease community, Uplifting Athletes would like to congratulate Eric Anthony on winning this award and for inspiring others with hope through the power of sport.



Former Illinois Chapter President Joe Spencer wins Coach Wooden Citizen Cup Award

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Former Illini football center and Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes President Joe Spencer recently won the 2017 Coach Wooden Citizen Cup Award given to the most outstanding role model among athletes.

Athletes for a Better World announced Spencer as its winner from among the four finalists Tuesday evening in Atlanta.

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 presented the Wooden Cup for the 13th year.

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.

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 Illinois Chapter Lift for Life, helping organize Illinois’ student-athlete variety show that has raised over $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.

Seven individuals from four Uplifting Athletes Chapters run Pro Day Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns

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For three straight years, members of the Uplifting Athletes chapter network have run campaigns during the NFL Combine to shine a spotlight on the rare disease community.

This year three players ran Reps For Rare Diseases fundraising and awareness campaigns at the NFL Combine.

Not all chapter members with NFL aspirations were extended combine invites, but many participated in their team Pro Day and several ran Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns.

Four schools, Illinois, Maryland, Florida State and Arizona, had individuals volunteer to run Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns during their Pro Day events in March.

All total the Pro Day Reps for Rare Diseases campaigns raised more than $5,000 to support the Uplifting Athletes mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Four players, former chapter president Joe Spencer, Michael Martin, Rob Bain and Ryan Frain, teamed up to run individual campaigns under the Illinois Chapter umbrella.

Rod Johnson represented Florida State, former chapter President Josh Kern carried the flag for Arizona and Roman Braglio stepped up at Maryland.

Thanks to all the fans who supported these seven individuals representing four student-athlete led Uplifting Athletes Chapters on NFL Pro Days across the country.

Rare Disease Champion Mitchell Meyers takes the stage at 2017 Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala

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Uplifting Athletes was proud to honor Iowa State defensive end Mitchell Meyers as its ninth winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award as part of the Maxwell Football Club Gala.

The Rare Disease Champion Award is presented annually 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.

In between a previous commitment to a speaking engagement for the Iowa Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Thursday night and being a groomsman in the wedding of his best friend in St. Louis Saturday afternoon, Meyers made it to the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City for the gala.

“It was such an honor to be on the stage with so many big-name players at every level of football,” said Meyers, who will graduate in May and already has a job with an international supply-chain company lined up.

Meyers was part of the impressive Maxwell awards program that included: former Pittsburgh running back James Conner, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, Alabama coach Nick Saban, former Duke Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Dallas Cowboys legend and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.

During his acceptance speech, Meyers talked about how shortly after learning of his diagnosis with a rare disease he read former Boston College and current New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich’s book.

The trophy Meyers was presented is cast in the likeness of Herzlich.

“This was meant to be, I guess, with Mark Herzlich and the trophy. That’s so cool,” said Meyers, whose father, Scott, joined him for the awards gala. “His book served as a real inspiration to me.

“Thanks to everyone who voted for me … Iowa State fans are the best. This was a first-class experience for us. It’s my honor to be the Rare Disease Champion.”

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.

His roller coaster treatment for the rare disease included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. Meyers was in the 10 percent of those diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who don’t respond to the first-line treatment.

It would have been easy to just return to school and finish off his degree without playing his final year of eligibility. But Meyers, who admits he had no idea how he would do, wanted to prove to himself he could do it.

With an almost completely new coaching staff in place, Meyers went out and earned a starting spot at defensive end. He played in every game, recorded 30 tackles, was an Academic All-Big 12 selection and was chosen as a team captain.

“This young man had this upbeat spirit about himself going through this, and it can put you in your place really fast,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “One of the best stories in college football.”

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.