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 Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo to donate a portion of proceeds from autograph appearance on March 19 to Uplifting Athletes


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Former Syracuse All-American wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is coming off a strong NFL Combine and is returning to Central New York for an autograph session.

Amba will be at Cooperstown Connection inside Destiny USA on Sunday, March 19 from 2-4 p.m. If you are in the Syracuse area, come out and meet the Orange’s first All-American selection since 2001.

He is donating a portion of the proceeds he makes from his appearance to Uplifting Athletes and the Syracuse Chapter. The more autographs Amba signs, the more he donates.

Being a part of the Syracuse Chapter was an important part of Amba’s college experience. He furthered his commitment with a Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign during the recent NFL Combine, and plans to continue to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Trio shines a spotlight on rare diseases at NFL Combine and raises more than $9,000 for Uplifting Athletes


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Three former college football standouts gave a voice to rare diseases at the 2017 NFL Combine.

Garrett Sickels, Amba Etta-Tawo and Ifeadi Odenigbo each ran a Reps For Rare Diseases campaign in support of Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Fans and supporters could pledge any amount for each bench press repetition Sickels and Odenigbo completed and for each inch Etta-Tawo cleared in the vertical jump.

The trio combined to raise nearly $9,500 for life saving rare disease research with Uplifting Athletes.

Sickels, the former Penn State Chapter President, is the third Nittany Lion to run a Reps For Rare Diseases campaign following in the footsteps of Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James and Detroit Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel.

The former PSU defensive end wanted to surpass the fundraising totals of his former teammates. Sickels kept his end of the bargain by meeting his 20-repetition goal total to become the No. 1 Reps For Rare Diseases fundraiser by clearing $7,000 raised and smashing his $5,000 goal.

Syracuse’s Etta-Tawo and Northwestern’s Odenigbo each became the first representatives from their respective schools to run campaigns at the NFL Combine for Uplifting Athletes.

Thanks to all the fans who supported Sickels, Etta-Tawo and Odenigbo in their efforts to shine a spotlight on rare diseases at the 2017 NFL Combine.

Former Syracuse All-American WR Amba Etta-Tawo will be Leaping For Rare Diseases at NFL Combine


amba-rfrd-17-graphicFormer Syracuse All-American Amba Etta-Tawo has chosen to make the 2017 NFL Combine a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

The wide receiver is doing a Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign to raise money for life saving rare disease research with Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge any amount for every vertical leap inch Etta-Tawo clears at the 2017 NFL Combine by visiting Etta-Tawo’s fundraising page to learn more. His goal is to raise $3,000.

Etta-Tawo was part of a Syracuse Chapter that started tackling rare diseases in 2013 when it joined Uplifting Athletes. The college football student-athlete led chapter held its third Lift For Life in 2016 and set a record by raising more than $20,000. The Syracuse Chapter also enjoys a special relationship with 8-year-old rare disease patient Lillian Belfield and her family.

Being part of the Syracuse Chapter was an important part of Etta-Tawo’s college experience and is why he chose to launch his Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign.

“It is an honor to be able to use the platform to help raise awareness and contribute to the research of rare diseases,” Etta-Tawo said. “What’s so special about this organization is that the proceeds not only help fund the research, but also helps patients suffering from these diseases.”

Make your pledge now to join Amba Etta-Tawo in the fight against rare diseases at the NFL Combine.

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!