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.

 

Four FCS Chapters kick off 2017 Lift For Life season with spring events


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Uplifting Athletes kicked off its 2017 Lift For Life season with four FCS Chapters, Penn, Princeton, Saint Francis and Stony Brook, holding events this spring.

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event for the Uplifting Athletes nationwide network of college football student-athlete led chapters to support the mission of inspiring the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

While all chapters in the Uplifting Athletes network hold a Lift For Life, each event has its own individual stamp.

At Penn, the Lift For Life is part of the annual Iron Quaker event to close out the winter lifting program. The Penn Chapter used this max-out day to create a competition between the offense, defense and special teams.

For the first time ever, the Princeton Chapter event was open to the public. The Tigers held their competitive Lift For Life outside the Frist Campus Center and also used a max-out day to add some competition spice to the event. Princeton used the offense vs. defense model and it came down to the final event, tire flip, to decide the winner.

Saint Francis used its annual Lift For Life as the cornerstone of their event, but the Red Flash added a “Community Day” element for 2017. The Saint Francis Chapter added a 5K run for runners of all ages and a punt, pass and kick for kids. The day was capped off by the annual Lift For Life.

To finish off the FCS Chapter run this spring, Stony Brook was forced inside for the second year in a row. Torrential rain prevented the Seawolves from holding their event in LaValle Stadium, but the competitive nature and spirit of their Lift For Life more than made up for the venue change. The Stony Brook Chapter split into four teams this year, and it was the Blue Team edging the Red Team by three points to claim victory.

The four events combined to raise nearly $25,000 for Uplifting Athletes in support of its commitment to life skills development, patient focused programs and rare disease research.

Thank you to all those that supported the Penn, Princeton, Saint Francis and Stony Brook Lift For Life events in 2017. The summer events schedule for our FBS Chapters is building.

 

Taking a look back at 2016 for Uplifting Athletes


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In a year of change on many fronts for Uplifting Athletes, taking time to reflect is time well spent.

Our purpose as a national nonprofit remains unaffected. We serve the 30 million Americans that comprise the rare disease community. But our scope and mission underwent a natural evolution to kick off the year.

We expanded our scope of support to the larger rare disease community as a whole and settled on five categories of rare disease groups, rare cancers, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders, rare autoimmune disorders and rare muscular disorders.

Our mission has remained the same since 2007, but we overhauled the words to more adequately reflect where we want to go in the future. Uplifting Athletes is a national nonprofit organization that inspires the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

In February we crowned our eighth Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion. And we celebrated USC long snapper Jake Olson and his amazing rare disease story at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala in March.

Our annual Gridiron Gala was also in March, and for the first time we put the focus of our annual fundraising event squarely on rare disease patients and their families. It was a celebration of battling, and in some cases overcoming, the challenges of a rare disease journey.

In May we welcomed a record 30-plus leaders in college football to Northwestern University for our annual Chapter Leadership Conference. The weekend painted a promising picture for the future of our nationwide network of student-athlete led chapters.

Over the course of the late spring and into the summer, 19 chapters ran a Lift For Life event. This is the signature fundraising and rare disease awareness event, but trust us when we say no two events are the same.

Penn used its annual Iron Quaker lifting competition to hold its Lift For Life, Notre Dame holds a bowling event to engage the community, at Arizona it’s a kids clinic and Nebraska holds an annual 5K/Fun Run as its signature event.

Clemson, Georgia Tech, Washington and Northern Arizona each held their inaugural Lift For Life events in 2016. And the charter chapter of Uplifting Athletes, Penn State, held its 14th annual Lift For Life.

The funds that are raised from these annual Lift For Life events supports rare disease research and patient focused programs. And this fall, Uplifting Athletes allotted research funds to support translational research being done at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Fox Chase in Philadelphia and Penn.

August was a month of more transition for the organization. Former Chapter Manager Becky Mayes left after nearly four years with Uplifting Athletes and Director of Marketing Mark Mihalik took a similar position with PledgeIt.

Those departures provided Uplifting Athletes the opportunity to hire Rob Long as the Director of Strategic Development and Chapter Liaison. Long is the inspiration behind Syracuse forming a chapter, a former rare disease patient who overcame his rare brain cancer and played college football.

In addition, John Trzeciak was looking for passion and purpose in his journey and as a long-time resident of State College and a Penn State alumnus and fan, he knew about Uplifting Athletes. Trzeciak is a full-time volunteer and mentor with a wealth of knowledge and skills that will help Uplifting Athletes maximize its resources in the future.

At the peak of their football season, 11 members of the Uplifting Athletes Chapter network donated their time and hard work to run Touchdown Pledge Drives.

In its third year of existence, Arizona, Clemson, Colgate, Florida State, Maryland, Penn State, Penn, Princeton, St. Francis, Stony Brook and Syracuse hosted Touchdown Pledge Drive games.

Penn, who shared the Ivy League title with Princeton, ran a campaign that included all of its Ivy games and included the offense, defense and kicking game. Colgate and Princeton each ran offense vs. defense drives. The remaining eight chapters ran a pledge drive based solely on touchdowns.

We are grateful for all the blessings of this past year that allowed us to serve the rare disease community. We are excited for 2017.

Together … We Are … Stronger!

 

Uplifting Athletes Chapters cross the goal line for 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drive season with strong finish


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At the peak of their football season, 11 members of the Uplifting Athletes Chapter network donated their time and hard work to run Touchdown Pledge Drives.

In its third year of existence, Arizona, Clemson, Colgate, Florida State, Maryland, Penn State, Penn, Princeton, St. Francis, Stony Brook and Syracuse hosted Touchdown Pledge Drive games.

This empowered our college football student-athlete led chapters to continue their mission of using college football as a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Penn, who shared the Ivy League title with Princeton, ran a campaign that included all of its Ivy games and included the offense, defense and kicking game. Colgate and Princeton each ran offense vs. defense drives. The remaining eight chapters ran a pledge drive based solely on touchdowns.

All total the 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drives raised nearly $35,000 in support of the rare disease community through Uplifting Athletes.

To learn more about the individual accomplishments of each chapter, visit the Uplifting Athletes 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drive page.

Proceeds from the Uplifting Athletes 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drive supports rare disease research and patient focused programs.

Thank you to each of the 11 chapters and all those who donated for shining a spotlight on the rare disease community.

Visit upliftingathletes.org to learn more about our mission or click here to help fund life saving research today!

Stony Brook Chapter Touchdown Pledge Drive set for home opener Saturday against Sacred Heart


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Success this season for Stony Brook is centered around the Seawolves offense scoring more points. The SBU defense has the pieces to continue its recent trend of being among the best in the country.

The Stony Brook Chapter of Uplifting Athletes is counting on the offense to put a few touchdowns on the board Saturday, September 24th for its 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drive to support the rare disease community when the Seawolves host Sacred Heart at LaValle Stadium.

Each touchdown the Seawolves score against Sacred Heart helps the student-athlete led Stony Brook Chapter continue its mission of using college football as a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

The leadership team of the student-athlete led Uplifting Athletes Chapter and all the members of the 2016 Seawolves squad is asking fans to support their efforts by making a pledge through the Stony Brook online Touchdown Pledge Drive site.

Proceeds from the Stony Brook Chapter of Uplifting Athletes Touchdown Pledge Drive supports rare disease research and patient focused programs.

The challenges faced by the rare disease community are bigger than any one individual, team or organization can tackle alone. The grassroots effort of the Stony Brook Chapter, along with a nationwide network of teams, is uniquely positioned to educate and engage the local community and shine a spotlight on rare diseases.

The Stony Brook Chapter started tackling rare diseases in 2014 when it joined Uplifting Athletes. The student-athlete led Stony Brook Chapter serves the rare disease community based on a long-term relationship between the Seawolves head coach Chuck Priore and a rare disease patient.

Joey Ferminella is a teenager who battled the rare disease medullolblastoma and is very much part of the Seawolves program annually thanks to his personal relationship with Priore, and the Stony Brook players.

Support the Stony Brook Chapter and its efforts to make a difference in the rare disease community by signing up for its Touchdown Pledge Drive today!

 

 

 

Annual Uplifting Athletes Leadership Retreat sees a record 31 student-athletes attend


UA-Retreat-2016Each 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.

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.”