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.

 

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.

Roman Braglio adds Maryland to 2017 Pro Day Reps For Rare Diseases campaign roster


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Former Maryland defensive end Roman Braglio will make his upcoming NFL Pro Day a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Braglio, a 2016 team captain, 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 Braglio performs at Maryland Pro Day on March 29th by visiting pledgeit.org/roman-braglio.

The Maryland Chapter is approaching a decade of service to the rare disease community. The original inspiration for the Terrapins to join Uplifting Athletes in 2009 was the centered around legendary Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason and his son Gunner’s battle with cystic fibrosis.

Being involved with the Maryland Chapter and Lift For Life was an important part of Braglio’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,” Braglio said. “I have committed my performance at the Maryland Pro Day to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission.”

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

 

 

Maryland Chapter provides uplifting experience for rare diseases patients at NIH Clinical Center


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Nearly 40 members of the 2017 Maryland Terrapins football team paid a visit to the Clinical Center at the National Institute of Health (NIH) during their celebration of Rare Disease Day.

This Uplifting Experience for rare disease patients at NIH was organized by Adam Greene, the Maryland Chapter of Uplifting Athletes President.

“What’s great is when you see it all come together and the impact that you have with the kids,” Greene said. “It makes you realize all the time and effort you put into making something like this come to fruition is so worth it.”

This was the third consecutive year players from the Maryland Chapter of Uplifting Athletes visited the NIH Clinical Center as part of NIH Rare Disease Day and was, by far, the largest group of players to ever sign up.

“They don’t get many visitors often. We just talked with the young boys and girls and made them laugh,” said senior defensive end Cavon Walker. “Watching them smile and enjoy us being there made them happy and I enjoyed that. This shows us you can’t take anything for granted.”

The staff at the NIH children’s hospital divided the players up into smaller groups in order to visit as many patients as possible.

WATCH MARYLAND CHAPTER VISIT TO NIH CLINICAL CENTER

One of the rare disease patients primarily spoke Spanish. No problem as a couple member of the Terrapins squad spoke Spanish. The three of them had a great conversation.

“This really shows you the platform you are given as a student-athlete. As an athlete thousands of people live through you vicariously. And it’s not just through your performance, but also through your character,” Greene said. “This shows the players on the team the amount of impact you can have.”

Greene brought along plenty of Terrapins mini-helmets to autograph and give away. And each patient received a hand-written note signed by every player who made the trip to serve as inspiration.

In between visits with patients, at the urging of the NIH staff who were clearly comprised of Terps alumnus, the halls of the hospital would echo with the Maryland Fight Song.

And Greene, along with his teammates, said they wanted to get another visit scheduled as soon as possible. The impact these patients have on the players is real.

“I’ve always thought you go through these things and your objective is to inspire them and to really give back and to show them that you are there for them,” Greene said. “In return we end up being inspired by them. They are going through so much, but they look at the world through hope and happiness. It sheds onto you and impacts you going forward.”

 

 

Clemson Tigers highlight Uplifting Athletes Chapter bowl season by winning National Championship


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Clemson became the second university with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter to win the college football National Championship with its dramatic victory over defending champion Alabama.

Florida State won the final BCS National Championship in 2014 to cap a perfect 14-0 season.

Two of the last four champions of college football, Clemson and Florida State, are part of Uplifting Athletes student-athlete chapter network.

The Clemson Chapter held its inaugural Lift For Life event this past summer and also held a Touchdown Pledge Drive for the Syracuse game this season in support of the rare disease community.

Congratulations to the Tigers on winning their first National Championship since 1981 and thanks to Clemson Chapter President and punter Andy Teasdall for all his hard work in making 2016 a success on and off the field.

Big Ten champion Penn State and Pac-12 winner Washington each finished its respective seasons with losses, but that won’t diminish the huge strides forward each program made nationally.

The Huskies fell to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal and the Nittany Lions were part of a thrilling and record setting Rose Bowl game won by USC.

Clemson climbed the highest mountain in college football by winning it all, but five other programs with an Uplifting Athletes Chapter ended the 2016 campaign on a high note with a victory in their respective bowl game.

Florida State edged Michigan in the Orange Bowl, Northwestern held off Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl, Georgia Tech nearly doubled up Kentucky in the Taxslayer Bowl, NC State put up 42 points on Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl and Baylor snapped its losing streak by rolling Boise State in the Cactus Bowl.

Maryland, Nebraska and South Carolina were also part of the 2016 bowl slate but came up just short.

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!