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.

Former Arizona tight end Josh Kern doing Reps For Rare Diseases at 2017 Pro Day March 24


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Former Arizona tight end Josh Kern will make his NFL Pro Day a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

The former Uplifting Athletes Arizona Chapter President is excited about his Reps For Rare Diseases campaign to raise money for life saving rare disease research with Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge any amount for every bench press repetition Kern performs at Arizona Pro Day on March 24th by visiting his fundraising site.

Arizona’s inspiration for joining Uplifting Athletes, rare disease patient and big-time Wildcats fan Andrew Valdez, lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis in 2015. Kern was a pallbearer and spoke at Valdez’s funeral.

Being the Arizona Chapter President was an important part of Kern’s college experience and is why he chose to launch his Reps For Rare Diseases campaign.

“As I take a step toward my NFL dream, I’d like to use this opportunity to give back,” Kern said. “I have committed my performance at the Arizona Pro Day to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission.”

Make your pledge now to join Kern in the fight against rare diseases during Arizona Pro Day.

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!

Arizona Chapter Touchdown Pledge Drive on Saturday against Pac-12 foe Colorado


arizona-td-pledge-graphic-16The Arizona Chapter of Uplifting Athletes is counting on the offense to put a few touchdowns on the board Saturday for its 2016 Touchdown Pledge Drive to support the rare disease community when the Wildcats welcome Colorado to Tucson for a Pac-12 contest.

Each touchdown the Wildcats score against Colorado helps the student-athlete led Arizona 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 Wildcats squad is asking fans to support their efforts by making a pledge through the Arizona online Touchdown Pledge Drive site.

Proceeds from the Arizona 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 Arizona 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 Arizona Chapter started tackling rare diseases in 2014 when it joined Uplifting Athletes. The student-athlete led Arizona Chapter serves the rare disease community in honor of Andrew Valdez, a Tucson teenager who was a huge Arizona Wildcats fan.

Valdez lost his battle with cystic fibrosis in 2015, but the Arizona Chapter remains committed to the inspiration he provided by continuing to be a champion for the rare disease community through Uplifting Athletes.

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

 

 

Arizona Chapter holds second annual Kids Clinic inside Wildcats Stadium


ARIZONA KIDS CAMP IMAGE1 16With the focus on local kids in the community, the Arizona Chapter held its second annual Kids Clinic last Friday inside Wildcats stadium.

This was the signature event for the Arizona Chapter of Uplifting Athletes in support of the rare disease community.

More than 20 Arizona football players came out to support the fight against rare diseases and lead kids through a series of stations aimed to give them an authentic Arizona football experience.

The kids worked their way through punting, tackling, throwing, catching, footwork and what looked like an intense game of duck-duck-goose that the offensive lineman led simulating chasing down a quarterback.

All of the kids and current Arizona Wildcat football players enjoyed the event and are looking forward to next year’s clinic. It was a great way for the team to interact with their youngest fans and for the kids to simulate a day in the life of a Wildcat.

Click Here for Event Photo Gallery

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.”