Trio of former Fighting Illini using Illinois Pro Day to help tackle rare diseases


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Three former University of Illinois Fighting Illini football players are using the next step toward their NFL dream as an opportunity to give back.

Each is running a Reps For Rare Diseases campaign to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport.

Kendrick Foster, Malik Turner and Christian DiLauro each participated in the Illinois Chapter Lift for Life with their teammates last summer.

Fans and supporters can pledge to any or all three players for each bench press repetition they perform at the Illinois Pro Day on March 12th. Choose your favorite Reps For Rare Diseases player and support the rare disease community by making a pledge today.

All three former Fighting Illini view Uplifting Athletes as an important part of their college experience, and that is why they chose to launch Reps for Rare Diseases campaigns in support of the rare disease community.

The proceeds from Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

Leadership Development Conference ’18 featured a little bit of everything for nearly 40 college football student-athletes


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For nearly a decade, Uplifting Athletes has been bringing college football student-athletes leaders together for a weekend of training and development.

Last week nearly 40 student-athletes traveled to Atlanta for the 2018 Leadership Development Conference hosted by Uplifting Athletes and put together by Director of Chapter Development Brett Brackett.

“The 2018 Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference was a tremendous success. I left the conference energized by the focus and determination in this group of student-athletes,” Brackett said. “Despite their hectic lives they took time to develop leadership and transferable skills while learning how they can work with Uplifting Athletes to leverage their platform to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

Following a meet-and-greet dinner Friday night, the conference kicked off Saturday with a full day of programming Saturday that was driven by Uplifting Athletes four pillars – Uplifting Leaders, Uplifting Experiences, Rare Disease Awareness and Rare Disease Research.

One of the many highlights from the student-athlete’s perspective was the discussion with the panel of former student-athlete who are now professionals.

Eight former college student-athletes from the Atlanta area took on all questions about transitioning from college into the professional world.

“The best part of the weekend was having the former student-athlete panel. Being a student-athlete is a privilege and requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. But eventually football will end. We all need a plan of action when that happens,” Syracuse Chapter leader Nolan Cooney said. “Having the former athletes speak to us, was an incredible opportunity to hear from players that are now having incredible success in the corporate world.

“There was no sugar coating the conversation, it was powerful, funny and engaging. Having athletes from various schools, with totally different lives created a connection with everybody in the room.”

Uplifting Athletes Director of Strategic Development Rob Long is a former rare disease patient and college football player. Sharing his story allowed the student-athletes to develop a more personal connection to the cause prior to a visit to the Scottish Rite Hospital for an afternoon of visiting with rare disease patients.

Sunday began with a session on fundraising followed by a video review of Uplifting Athletes 2017.

The conference closed with Beth Nguyen, a NORD Rare Impact Award Honoree, sharing her story. Nguyen battles the rare disease Syringomyelia and is a mother, nurse, wife, patient advocate and leader.

A special thank you to all our supporters who made this conference possible. These young men are making a difference in the rare disease community with your help.

We asked a few of the student-athletes to provide us with some feedback, and what we received was not only helpful to us going forward, but it moved us.

So we are going to share the exact words of two attendees, Cooney and Trey Klock from Northwestern, about what Leadership Development Conference ’18 meant to them.

Uplifting Athletes: In your own words sum up your experience at the Leadership Development Conference and share something that moved or impacted you?

Cooney: This year’s Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference was an incredible opportunity to further my knowledge on what Uplifting Athletes does to not only impact the lives of rare disease patients but as well for the student-athletes. The conference was a great experience to meet and interact with athletes from other universities. Regardless of what school you attend, everybody was sharing very similar stories of their experiences as football players and as leaders of Uplifting Athletes. It is really special to be able to take our on-field competitiveness out of the equation and developed strong relationships with athletes that we play every fall. Uplifting Athletes is continuously growing and adding new chapters. With the new schools at the conference, it created a completely new element to my thinking and ideas. Some of the new chapters were brainstorming ideas that seemed unconventional to the traditional model, but I think that we can use in the future. Atlanta was a great city to host it in. It was really nice to get some heat, after a few weeks in the cold north. I saw a big difference in the conference from the past year in Philadelphia to this year in Atlanta. In Philadelphia, I was fairly new to Uplifting Athletes and I don’t know if I had the confidence to feel that I could make an impact. This year, I felt confident and collaborative. I very much enjoyed the structure of the conference this year. Moving around to the different rooms and touching on the various areas that Uplifting Athletes covers. Then going to the hospital was an experience that you rarely get to have. Typically you raise money and send it in without knowing much about where it is going. By going to the hospital, you are able to see directly where all of our efforts are going to go by interacting with children that are battling a rare disease.

Klock: It was an honor to represent Northwestern football with my teammate Peter Snodgrass at the annual Leadership Development Conference. I made a lot of new friends and enjoyed hearing about the efforts of the new chapters such as Alabama, Western Michigan, Davidson, Lehigh, and others. This was my third Leadership Development Conference and I continued to learn a lot about what we can do as student-athletes to raise awareness and money to fight rare diseases. I enjoyed meeting Brett Brackett and talking more with Scott (Shirley), Rob, and Andy (Shay). They are all exceptional men that have done some amazing things with Uplifting Athletes. I especially enjoyed visiting the children’s hospital and meeting a lot of young people that are facing some adversity right now. It made me realize how lucky I am to be able to play the great game of football. We also had the opportunity to hear from Beth Nguyen, a 2017 NORD Rare Impact Award Honoree. She is a mother, wife, nurse, patient, and advocate for the rare disease community. In 2012, Beth was given the diagnosis of Syringomyelia and she later created a task force (WSCTF) to increase understanding of the disease across all medical disciplines and to improve direct patient care. She also started a patient registry to drive research, has organized support groups, and developed of the first-ever advocacy models of care for both Syringomyelia and Chiari Malformation. Everyone was intrigued by her message and very respectful of her mission. As I reflect on the weekend, I am so thankful for every chance I get to wake up and make an impact on the world.

Uplifting Athletes: What was your favorite part or aspect of the weekend and explain why?

Cooney: The best part of the weekend was having the former athlete panel. Being a student-athlete is a privilege and requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. But eventually football will end, we all need a plan of action when that happens. Having the former athletes speak to us, was an incredible opportunity to hear from players that are now having incredible success in the corporate world. There was no sugar coating the conversation, it was powerful, funny and engaging. Having athletes from various schools, with totally different lives created a connection with everybody in the room. Everybody in the room has incredible competitiveness, and the former athletes are giving us the tools to harness that and use it on and off the field. Uplifting Athletes encourages athletes to make a difference in the community, use the power of sport to tackle rare diseases. But also use the power of sport in all different areas. To paraphrase something that was said that resonated with me was, after you graduate your identity as an athlete diminishes. Utilize being a student-athlete, to create opportunities and relationships that you’ll use your entire life. Another piece that stuck with me is when the panel was asked how much being an athlete translates to the working work. They responded with, look at the job description, teamwork, time management, dedication, ability to listen. Every one of these qualities is developed being an athlete. As the weekend progressed, I was constantly thinking about tasks and ideas I was ready to tackle. It re-energizes my enthusiasm to grow our chapter and make a difference.

Klock: Besides visiting the children’s hospital, my favorite part of the weekend was the former student-athlete Q&A session. We had the opportunity to hear from a player panel of former college student-athletes living in the Atlanta area. We asked a lot of questions about making the transition from college into the professional world. They were all very successful people and I learned a lot from it. The focus of the weekend was to learn more about the fight against rare diseases and develop a goal for our individual chapters, but I also really enjoyed learning about the “Uplifting Leaders” part, which consisted of tools and advice to prepare for life after football.

 

Annual Leadership Development Conference welcomes 36 college football student-athletes to Atlanta


LDC18 GRAPHICFor the ninth consecutive year, we will gather college football student-athletes for three days of education, training and networking during the 2018 Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference.

This year 36 current football players from 18 universities across the country will travel to Atlanta on Friday, January 26 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

“We are excited to provide the student-athletes with an opportunity to network with other bright minded leaders in college football,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Chapter Development Brett Brackett said. “Our goal is to grow their personal skill set and help them learn more about how to leverage their position as student-athletes to impact the rare disease community through Uplifting Athletes.”

Among the 18 schools that will be represented in Atlanta, six of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Defending National Champion Alabama, Minnesota, Temple, Davidson, Lehigh and Western Michigan have student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Illinois, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton and Stony Brook will also be in attendance.

The 2018 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 featuring a visit to the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital to interact with 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.

 

Weekly Update: Stony Brook runs past Lehigh in NCAA FCS postseason opener and Northwestern wins seventh in a row


WEEK 13 GRAPHICStony Brook was making its third appearance in the NCAA FCS College Football Playoffs, and in each of the previous two postseason visits, in 2011 and 2012, the Seawolves won their opener.

Make it 3-for-3 in first round games as Stony Brook used a punishing ground game that piled up 354 yards to overwhelm Patriot League co-champion Lehigh at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Donald Liotine, Stacey Bedell and Jordan Gowins combined for 38 of Stony Brook’s 49 rushing attempts. The trio totaled 274 yards on the ground with five touchdowns, led by Liotine’s 133 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.

Next up for the Seawolves, who rang up 622 total yards in posting their sixth win a row, is a visit to defending NCAA FCS champion James Madison Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

Northwestern wrapped up a nine-win regular season by steamrolling Illinois. The victory was the seventh in a row for the Wildcats and will earn head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad a tasty bowl bid. Led by 144 yards rushing from Uplifting Athletes Co-Rare Performance of the Week honoree Justin Jackson, the Wildcats pounded out more than 300 yards on the ground.

Florida State rolled past in-state rival Florida to get within one victory of being bowl eligible. The Seminoles used a pair of defensive touchdowns to subdue the Gators in a defensive battle where the teams combined for fewer than 500 yards.

Penn State finished with 10 regular-season victories for the second year in a row with a convincing road victory at Maryland. The Nittany Lions spread the wealth around offensively, led by more than 250 total yards and three touchdowns from Uplifting Athletes Co-Rare Performance of the Week honoree QB Trace McSorley.

Clemson is heading back to the ACC title game and is one victory shy of a third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoffs after rolling rival South Carolina in the Palmetto State Bowl. The Tigers raced out to a 34-0 advantage after three quarters behind 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns from QB Kelly Bryant.

NC State RB Nyheim Hines had a career-best 196 yards on the ground to power the Wolfpack past North Carolina to finish the regular season 8-4 overall and set themselves up well in the ACC pecking order in terms of a bowl bid with a 6-2 conference record.

WEEK 13 SCOREBOARD

 

Nine NFL players choose to partner with Uplifting Athletes during My Cause My Cleats 2017


MCMC 17 GRAPHICUplifting Athletes is partnering with the NFL in the My Cause My Cleats campaign this season.

Players from across the NFL will wear custom cleats that reflect their commitment to charitable causes during Week 13 games.

For the Uplifting Athletes team, most of them became connected to the rare disease cause in college when they were a part of something bigger than themselves. Seven of the nine members of the Uplifting Athletes team have a connection to their football student-athlete led university chapter that supports the rare disease community.

And for those seven, wearing the Uplifting Athletes brand for My Cause My Cleats is simply an extension of their support for their university chapter and the rare disease community.

“I would like to thank all the members of our My Cause My Cleats team and the former chapter members who have continued to be honorable representatives of their university and Uplifting Athletes as alumni,” said Uplifting Athletes Director of Chapter Management Brett Brackett, a former Penn State Chapter President who recently retired from the NFL. “Your platform has become more prevalent yet your heart for the rare disease community continues to shine bright.”

Each pair of uniquely designed cleats will be highlighted by the Uplifting Athletes colors and brand, but will also play tribute to their respective university chapter by featuring the school colors as well.

The current roster for the 2017 Uplifting Athletes My Cause My Cleats team includes: Navorro Bowman (Oakland Raiders), Garry Gilliam (San Francisco 49ers), Riley Dixon (Denver Broncos), Adam Humphries (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ted Karras (New England Patriots), Freddie Bishop (New York Jets), Matt Haack (Miami Dolphins) and Shamarko Thomas (Buffalo Bills).

In conjunction with My Cause My Cleats, each member of the Uplifting Athletes team is running a fundraising campaign to support the cause and help tackle rare diseases.

The proceeds from this My Cause My Cleats campaign support the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

“As a former professional athlete I am aware of the example we set for the next generation. We are proud to have these nine players set the precedent for our chapters and all athletes across the country,” Brackett said. “For these athletes to continue to lend a voice to a community that is starved for relevant attention and financial incentive to make and market new treatments cannot be undervalued.”

Uplifting Athletes is a national nonprofit that inspires the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport and empowers medical researchers to find cures.

Founded in 2007, Uplifting Athletes has college football student-athlete led chapters nationwide in FBS and FCS programs including half the schools in the Big Ten and ACC conferences.

Weekly Update: Huge upset for Syracuse of previously No. 2 ranked Clemson and NC State continues to rise


week 7 chapter updateSo Friday the 13th did prove to be something of a nightmare for a couple of Top 10 college football teams and served as a foreshadow of the weekend that was Week 7 of the 2017 season.

Syracuse coach Dino Babers picked up his signature victory as the Orange head coach in his second season in upstate New York after unranked Syracuse edged defending college football National Champion Clemson inside the Carrier Dome.

The previously No. 1 ranked Tigers suffered only their second loss against an unranked opponent in their last 51 attempts.

Led by quarterback Eric Dungey, who earned the Uplifting Athletes Rare Performance of the Week, Syracuse scored 27 points against a Clemson defense that held five of its previous six opponents to two or fewer touchdowns.

This was only the third loss for Clemson in its last 34 games dating back to the start of the 2015 season. The Tigers still control their own destiny, though. Remember, last year the Tigers lost to Pittsburgh during the regular season and still went on to claim the ACC and National titles.

Following the historic victory for the Orange, it was Clemson coach Dabo Swinney who stole the show. The Tigers’ skipper was extremely gracious in defeat.

Swinney was clearly happy for Babers after the game, seen mouthing “I’m so happy for you guys” to the Orange coach during the postgame handshake. And later he went into the Syracuse lockerroom to personally congratulate some of the players and even posed for pictures with them.

Meet University of Illinois Chapter President and Fighting Illini starting offensive lineman Nick Allegretti in our weekly Beyond The Trophy series.

It depends on the rankings, but at least three and in one case four of the Top 10 teams in the country lost in Week 7 including Clemson, Washington, Washington State and Auburn.

One of the teams on trending the other direction is the NC State Wolfpack, who improved to 6-1 after using a strong finish to close out Pittsburgh.

NC State is ranked inside the Top 20 (T16 in the AP and No. 17 in the coaches poll) for the first time since Week 2 of the 2003 season. That year the Wolpack were No. 14 overall before losing a road game at Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack are on a bye this week after notching win No. 6 in a row after losing to South Carolina in their opener. But a pair of elite programs, Notre Dame and Clemson, are on deck for NC State to close out October.

Coming off a tough home loss to undefeated defending Big Ten Champion Penn State, the Northwestern Wildcats clawed back to .500 on the strength of a strong second half to subdue Maryland.

RB Justin Jackson had a season-high 171 yards and a couple scores to go along with nearly 300 yards passing from QB Clayton Thorson to power the Wildcats.

Colgate used a season-high 166 yards and a touchdown from RB James Holland to overpower Fordham at home. The Raiders defense came up big too, limiting the Rams to only 64 rushing yards on 31 carries.

For the second week in a row Princeton cleared the 50-point barrier and improved to 4-1 overall. The Tigers outgained Brown 538-170 overall and led 36-0 at halftime.

Saint Francis QB Ben Fenimore tossed three touchdown passes for a Red Flash team that led 17-0 at intermission and improved to 2-0 in the NEC.

Stony Brook scored all 22 points in the second half, keyed by a pair of short touchdown runs by Donald Liotine, to rally past New Hampshire.

Cam Akers’ 42-yard touchdown run with 8:32 to play propelled Florida State past Duke for the Seminoles second win of the season. Akers finished with 115 yards on 15 carries.

WEEK 7 SCOREBOARD

2017 Beyond The Trophy: Meet Illinois OL and Chapter President Nick Allegretti


September 2 2017 Illinois vs Ball State Football. Home OpenerEach 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 Allegretti

College: University of Illinois

Height, weight, class, position: 6-4, 320-pound junior offensive lineman

High School: Lincoln-Way East, Frankfort, Ill.

About Allegretti: Ever since he stepped on the field as a redshirt freshman in 2015, Allegretti has displayed the diversity to play both guard and center for the Illini. … Played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman at guard and center and also played defensive tackle in two games. … President of the Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. … Started all 12 games in 2016 and is on the AFCA and Rimmington watch lists this season. … Has started at guard and center this season and has been voted a team captain for five of the six games so far.

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

Allegretti: Beating Nebraska on a last-minute touchdown drive at home.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and what, if anything, has this experience done for you?

Allegretti: When I was younger my brother had a battle with leukemia so I have seen how hard it can be to battle tough diseases. My brother had leukemia and there were a lot of resources there to help him recover and get back to my healthy and happy brother. When I found out that there were diseases that did not have as much research and did not have as much help, I knew I had to do whatever I could to change it.

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

Allegretti: Singing the Alma Mater after a big win.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Allegretti: Joe Thomas. He is the best offensive lineman to play since I truly started following football.

If you could have lunch with any one person (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

Allegretti: Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR was in office during the depression and WWII and he had an incredibly tough job that came with incredible decisions. I would love to hear his point of view on all the issues he experienced during his presidency. Teddy Roosevelt seems like one of the most interesting presidents that we have had and I feel like sitting with him and hearing stories about the Rough Riders would be amazing.

What is your favorite road stadium to play in and why?

Allegretti: Nebraska is a great game day atmosphere.

In your words, what are some of the things you are looking for in life after football or big goals for the future?

Allegretti: I am finishing up my undergraduate degree in accounting this semester and then continuing with my masters in accounting. After football is over I plan on taking the CPA and pursuing a career in public accounting.

 RAPID FIRE

What is your perfect pizza?

Allegretti: Sausage and pepperoni

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Allegretti: When it Rains It Pours by Luke Combs, In Color by Jamie Johnson, It’s a Great Day to Be Alive by Travis Tritt

Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus?

Allegretti: Miley Cyrus

 If you could spend the day with any celebrity, who would it be?

Allegretti: Lebron James

What was the last movie you went to the theater and saw?

Allegretti: Dunkirk

In the Mountains or on a Beach?

Allegretti: Beach