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.

MALIK YEAR END GRAPHIC

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

 

 

Baylor pulls off upset of Oklahoma State highlights Week 9 Chapter Upate


BAYLOR GRAPHICIn his second season in charge at Baylor, head coach Matt Ruhle declared the goal for this season was to become bowl eligible. The Bears were 1-11 a year ago and are in the midst of a massive program re-build.

What might be considered normal preseason coach speak was exactly what Ruhle believed was possible for this team. And with an impressive home upset of Oklahoma State in come-from-behind fashion, Baylor is one victory away from achieving that goal.

Quarterback Charlie Brewer, who didn’t start but entered the game in the second half on the heels of spending time in concussion protocol during the week, led the Bears on three touchdown drives in the final 16 minutes.

Brewer completed only four passes, but his final one to Denzel Mims covered six yards for a touchdown with 7 seconds remaining to give Baylor a dramatic come-from-behind victory. It was Mims’ only catch of the day after sitting out almost the entire game with an illness.

Nick Rinella goes old-school and does a little bit of everything for Saint Francis to earn Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week honors

Princeton: The No. 17 ranked Tigers moved to 8-0 for the first time since 1995 and took over sole possession of first place in the Ivy League with an emotional and dramatic come-from-behind victory over No. 20 Dartmouth in a battle of two previously unbeaten squads. In a game dominated by defense, Princeton QB John Lovett powered over from the 5-yard-line with 6:33 to play for the winning touchdown. Dartmouth held a 9-7 lead for nearly two quarters after notching a safety in very early stages of the second quarter.

Colgate: The No. 11 ranked Raiders wrapped up their 10th Patriot League title and third in the last four years with perhaps its best showing of the season, a 41-0 blanking of Fordham. Colgate scored 14 points in the first quarter and led 31-0 at halftime. The Raiders not only rushed for a season-high 364 yards – best total since 2012 – but the Colgate defense set a program record by limiting the Rams to minus-50 yards rushing. The shutout was No. 5 on the season for the Raiders, who have not surrendered a touchdown since the 6:59 mark of the fourth quarter in the season opener against Holy Cross. That’s a streak of nearly 430 minutes.

Illinois: Led by a running game that gashed Minnesota for a 430 yards – the most since 2010 – the Orange and Blue improved to 4-5 overall this season. Junior running back Reggie Corbin racked up a career-high 213 yards on just 13 carries (16.4 yards per carry). Corbin found a hole on the Illini’s second offensive snap of the game and outraced the Gopher defense for a 72-yard touchdown to put Illinois in front for good. Corbin also added a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter, giving him four runs of 70-plus yards on the year.

Syracuse: Playing as a ranked team for the first time since 2001, the Orange pounded Wake Forest by running the ball 60 times for 264 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. A little sluggish early, Syracuse fell behind 10-0 early, but responded with 28 unanswered points to seize control. The road victory was the first in the ACC for the Orange since 2016.

Saint Francis: Using a defense that notched four turnovers, three sacks and nine tackles for a loss, the Red Flash won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Junior safety Nick Rinella led Saint Francis in rushing yards, tackles and kick returns yards. He also iced this game with a late fourth-quarter interception in the end zone.

Catch up with Saint Francis Chapter leader Nick Rinella in the latest installment of our Beyond The Trophy Series

Lehigh: Sophomore wide receiver Jorge Portorreal had a career-high nine catches for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns to pace a Mountain Hawks offense that piled up 550 yards and scored 45 points to end Lehigh’s seven-game losing streak.

Clemson: The Tigers offense exploded for a season-high 77 points to move to 9-0 and remain square in the middle of the College Football Playoff picture as the consensus No. 2 ranked team in the country. The run game powered the Tigers offensively, accounting for 492 of the 661 total yards. Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Tavien Feaster each eclipsed 100 yards rushing and combined for four touchdowns. It was the second time this season a trio of Clemson running backs went over the 100-yard mark in the same game.

Penn: For the second game in a row the Quakers defense allowed only a single touchdown, and the offense scored 17 second-half points to nudge past Cornell. The defense for the 6-2 Quakers limited Cornell to 317 total yards while recording eight tackles for a loss and three sacks.

NC State: Freshman running back Ricky Person, Jr. scored three touchdowns and kicker Christopher Dunn kicked four field goals as the duo combined for 35 points in a victory over Florida State that halted the Wolfpack’s two-game slide. NC State is bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season. Person’s three touchdowns is the most for a freshman since 2013.

Notre Dame: Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book overcame a sluggish first half to rally undefeated Notre Dame on the road against Northwestern. Book was 15 of 19 for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the second half. He finished with 399 total yards for the Irish (343 passing, 56 rushing) including a 23-yard touchdown run to ice the victory with 2:45 to play.

WEEK 10 SCOREBOARD

Saint Francis Chapter Leader and defensive back Nick Rinella featured in latest Beyond The Trophy series


RINELLA IMAGEEach week during the college football season we will feature a player who is an officer for an Uplifting Athletes Chapter for our Beyond the Trophy series.

 Name: Nick Rinella

College: Saint Francis University

Height, weight, class, position: 5-foot-10, 200-pound, junior, safety

High School: LaSalle College HS, Collegeville, Pa.

About Rinella: Arrived at Saint Francis as a highly decorated high school player on both side of the ball, earning first-team All-State honors as a senior. Played right away as a freshman on special teams and has started as a safety the last two seasons for the Red Flash. … Serves as a leader for the SFU Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. … Has recorded more than 1,100 yards as a kickoff and punt return specialist with three punts returns for touchdowns. … Has 110 tackles and four interceptions in 15 games as a starter at safety. … In 2017 was second-team All-NEC as a punt return specialist and a CoSIDA Academic All-District selction.

What is your most memorable experience as a college football player?

Rinella: My first career punt return against Robert Morris my sophomore year.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: I wanted to help make a difference in this world and I wanted to get involved with something on campus. Uplifting Athletes felt like such a good opportunity and experience to pass up.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: That there are so many people out there with rare disease stories that no one knows about. That there are so many people out there trying to make a difference for these people that just aren’t being heard and we have a great opportunity to change that.

As a player, what is your favorite part of the game day experience at your home stadium?

Rinella: Walking down to the field through the tailgating parking lot and seeing all the support we have and hear all the fans cheering as we walk by.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Rinella: Earl Thomas because I love the way he plays the game and how he continues to learn more and more about the game each year. Plus, it helps that he is the best safety in the league.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Rinella: Montana’s because it was electrifying and so big. It was a really neat experience.

 HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Rinella: Meat Lovers

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Rinella: FEFE; Barbie Dreams; Don’t

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Rinella: Wendy’s

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Rinella: The Chicago Bears

What is the most used app on your phone?

Rinella: Snapchat

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Rinella: To be playing as an All-Pro in the NFL

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Francis’ Nick Rinella does a little bit of everything for Red Flash to earn Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week honor


RINELLA RPW GRAPHICSaint Francis junior Nick Rinella went old-school football to help the Red Flash post a victory – putting on a Chuck Bednarik type display by doing a little bit of everything.

Rinella had a huge impact in all three phases for Saint Francis at home against Bryant by leading the Red Flash in rushing yards, tackles and kickoff return yards.

In Saint Francis’ 27-14 victory, Rinella had a team-high 60 rushing yards and a touchdown, led the Red Flash in tackles with 10, returned a pair of kickoffs 94 yards and sealed the victory with a fourth-quarter interception to earn the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week.

A two-way star coming out of LaSalle College HS in suburban Philadelphia, Rinella had seen some spot carries as a running back the last two seasons while serving as a starter on defense. But this was the first game where he led the team in rushing.

Rinella’s season-high 10 tackles paced a defense that forced four turnovers, recorded four sacks and notched eight tackles for a loss while limiting Bryant to fewer than 300 total yards.

Right after Bryant had climbed to within 17-14 late in the second quarter, Rinella returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to set up a short touchdown run that gave the Red Flash a 24-14 cushion at intermission.

Nursing a two-score lead down the stretch, Rinella capped his stellar all-around performance by picking off a pass in the end zone with less than 5 minutes to play to stymie any comeback hopes Bryant entertained.

Previous Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week Winners

Week 1: Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Week 2: William Wicks, Davidson

Week 3: Davidson Wildcats Team

Week 4: Jesper Horsted, Princeton

Week 5: Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

Week 6: John Lovett, Princeton

Week 7: Flynn Nagel, Northwestern

Week 8: Shaka Toney, Penn State

Week 9: Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Penn State Chapter leader Trace McSorley announced as finalist for NFF William V. Campbell Trophy


NFF William V Campbell_ TraceCongratulations to Penn State Uplifting Athletes Chapter Leader Trace McSorley on being named a finalist for the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy, which annually recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.

The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced 13 finalists, who will each receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the 60th NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class.

“Trace is a tremendous leader on and off the field. He has been a pleasure to work with in his roles as our Penn State Chapter President and Vice President,” Uplifting Athletes Director Sports Impact Brett Brackett said. “He has a passion for the Rare Disease Community and is far more than just one of the best quarterbacks in the nation … he is one of the most well-rounded student-athletes I’ve ever met or had the privilege to work with.”

All 13 finalists will travel to New York City for the 61st NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Dec. 4, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports.

At the event, which will take place at the New York Hilton Midtown, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the 29th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.

The 13 finalists were selected from a nationwide pool of 179 exceptional semifinalists chosen from all NCAA divisions and the NAIA.

Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the Campbell Trophy and NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Three other finalists, Drue Tranquill (Notre Dame), Ryan Finley (NC State) and Christian Wilkins (Clemson), participated in Uplifting Athletes chapter events at their schools.

Illinois Chapter President Nick Allegretti and Saint Francis Chapter President Mike Ames were among the 179 semifinalists.