Uplifting Athletes’ 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta covered a lot of ground


The essential core of the Uplifting Leaders program is the college football student-athletes that steer our chapters at universities across the country.

This past weekend more than 40 individual leaders from 20 college football programs traveled to Atlanta for the 10th annual Leadership Development Conference.

The three-day conference was hosted by Uplifting Athletes, and run by Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett, a former Penn State Chapter President who attended the inaugural conference in 2010.

“Uplifting Athletes is grateful to be engaged with such enthusiastic student-athletes motivated to leverage their platform for good,” Brackett said. “I am excited to see how this group of student-athletes takes the knowledge gained from the conference and uses the power of sport to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.”

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

Morning sessions covering the four programs were followed by a panel of former college football student-athletes sharing their stories and advice about making the transition from student-athlete to the professional world.

The lively and open discussion was spearheaded by panelists Pat Boyle, Drew Butler, Stephon Morris and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.

“The conference was a great experience for me to learn more how to utilize my platform to impact the Rare Disease Community,” Penn State Chapter leader Sean Clifford said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to represent Penn State Football and grow as a leader.”

To kick off the afternoon, Uplifting Athletes Executive Director Rob Long shared his story about being a rare disease patient and how that shaped him to become a leader, advocate and difference maker for the Rare Disease Community.

Long’s hour-long presentation set the table for a tour of the College Football Hall of Fame and an Uplifting Experience where nearly 20 rare disease patients, caregivers and family members teamed up with the student-athletes.

“For me Leadership Development Conference 2019 was all about the people. You are surrounded with other college football players from all around the country and get to learn about their own connections with rare diseases and how much it affects us all,” Northwestern Chapter leader Joe Spivak said. “And then to be paired with a family going through the fight at the College Football Hall of Fame puts everything in that much more perspective.

“Those interactions, along with all the work with everyone from the Uplifting Athletes staff, showed me the true difference we can make in this community through the power of the sport we are all so blessed to be a part of.”

Gabe Low, a 17-year-old Hawaii native who was born with a rare genetic disorder, took center stage on Sunday to share his story about why he did the 3,500-mile Ride For Rare Diseases and talked about the impact of awareness created by using his platform.

The conference also featured sessions on Lift For Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive and next steps moving forward as these leaders prepare for 2019.

“If their attentiveness and commitment at the conference is any sign of what’s to come from this group of leaders … I believe 2019 could be something special,” Brackett said. “Their level of engagement leads me to believe we will see a high level of awareness and fundraising for the Rare Disease Community through Uplifting Athletes chapters across the country.”

Among the 20 schools that were represented in Atlanta, two of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico had student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan were also in attendance.

A special thank you to all our supporters who made this conference possible. With your help, these young men are making a difference in the Rare Disease Community.

Uplifting Athletes to welcome 40-plus college football student-athletes for 10th Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta


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The bedrock of the Uplifting Leaders program at Uplifting Athletes is the college football student-athletes that guide our nationwide network of chapters.

These student-athletes already have the drive and passion to help others and that is why they chose to step up and become chapter leaders to help us serve the Rare Disease Community.

In order to help them become even stronger leaders and advocates, Uplifting Athletes will gather these college football student-athletes together in late January for three days of education, training and networking at the 2019 Leadership Development Conference in Atlanta.

This will be the 10th consecutive year Uplifting Athletes has put together a weekend of intense leadership development and relationship building for current and prospective chapter leaders.

“We are thrilled to host a fantastic group of student-athletes for a three-day conference focused on enhancing life skills, transferable skills recognition, and leadership development through Uplifting Athletes programming,” Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact Brett Brackett said. “Our goal is to provide the student-athletes with the skills necessary to returned to campus empowered to make a positive impact on the Rare Disease Community.

This year 40 current football players from 20 universities across the country will travel to Atlanta on Friday, January 25 to kick off a busy weekend of engaging work sessions, networking and relationship building.

Among the 20 schools that will be represented in Atlanta, four of those are prospective Uplifting Athletes Chapters. Kent State and New Mexico have student-athletes attending for the first time.

Current Chapter leaders from Clemson, Colgate, Davidson, Florida State, Lehigh, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Illinois, Saint Francis, Penn, Northwestern, Maryland, Princeton, Stony Brook, Fordham and Western Michigan will also be in attendance.

The 2019 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 to interact with local Atlanta area 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.

For Seattle Seahawks WR Malik Turner the rare disease cause is personal


Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver Malik Turner is passionate about the rare disease cause.

He took part in Lift For Life as a member of the Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. Turner also supported his cause by participating in the Uplifting Athletes Reps For Rare Diseases campaign for his NFL Pro Day.

It was during his Reps For Rare Diseases campaign that Turner made the connection that one of his University of Illinois classmates, Holt Erikson, was a rare disease patient. Once he learned more about Holt’s story, Turner felt a deeper connection to his friend.  The rare disease cause became personal.

“What draws me closer to the rare disease cause is personally connecting with someone that has gone through the struggle,” Turner said. “That definitely drew me closer to it.”

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That deep and personal relationship moved Turner to do everything in his power to use his platform as an elite athlete to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.

And Turner was not going to let an injury derail his commitment to making a difference for the Rare Disease Community.

Two weeks prior to his Pro Day workout Turner suffered a fracture in his foot. That injury meant he would not be able to participate in the biggest workout of his life.

Turner felt compelled, though, to honor his commitment to the rare disease cause and on his Pro Day still participated in the bench press. With his friend Holt on his mind, Turner went out and beat his bench press goal by one repetition despite being injured.

MALIK 1When he made it to the NFL, Turner wanted to continue that deeply personal 1-on-1 relationship with those battling rare diseases.

Once Turner secured a spot on the Seahawks roster, he almost immediately started looking for ways to do even more to support his cause. Working together, Turner and Uplifting Athletes teamed up to host an Uplifting Experience for a rare disease patient family in the greater Seattle area.

Earlier this month Turner hosted ADNP patient Tony Sermone, his twin brother Rocco and Tony’s parents, Sandra and Rich at the Seattle Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center for several hours.

They toured the Seahawks locker room, interacted with other Seattle players, worked out on the practice field together and Turner walked them through a day in the life of an NFL player.

It was during this experience that Turner was able to show his passion for the rare disease cause – unveiling the cleats he will wear for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign during this Sunday’s game at home against San Francisco.

MALIK FAMILY GAME

 

Above the Seattle skyline painted on the on the back of his right cleat, are the initials “T” and “S” in Tony’s honor. The initials “H” and “E” are on the back of left cleat above the block “I” University Illinois logo to honor Holt.

“I needed to be more aware of exactly what rare means and how it’s not funded and needs more attention. Connecting to Holt and Tony made me want to dig deeper,” Turner said. “I didn’t know whom I impacted and when I saw that … it impacted me.

“Those little things that are bigger than me and bigger than football is something that’s important to me.”

Turner has chosen the Rare Disease Community as his cause and is supporting Uplifting Athletes during the NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign.

He is asking you to support his cause by making a donation through his Tackle Rare Diseases campaign.

The proceeds raised by Turner’s My Cause My Cleats campaign supports the mission of Uplifting Athletes and its charitable programs: Rare Disease Awareness, Rare Disease Research, Uplifting Experiences and Uplifting Leaders.

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Penn Chapter leader and wide receiver Steven Farrell featured in the latest Beyond The Trophy series


FARRELLEach 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: Steven Farrell

College: University of Pennsylvania

Height, weight, class, position: 6-foot-4, 205-pound, senior, wide receiver

High School: Pasack Valley HS in Hillsdale, New Jersey

About Farrell: A two-sport standout coming out of high school, Farrell played football and lacrosse. After sitting out his freshman year, the wide receiver appeared in 10 games as a sophomore in 2016 with four catches. … Last season he became a starter for the Quakers and had his first collegiate touchdown, a 31-yard grab against Cornell on November 18, 2017. Part of the leadership team for the Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and aspires to be a doctor. … This season Farrell has emerged as a go-to target with 38 catches and more than 500 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns. Had his first career 100-yard game in a victory over Yale with seven receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.

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

Farrell: One of my most memorable experiences as a college football player was my freshman year when we were playing Princeton at home. We were tied and Princeton was kicking a field goal during the final seconds of the fourth quarter and our linebacker Donnie Panciello blocked it. Then in OT we scored the game winning touchdown and I think experiencing that as a freshman really cemented my love for Penn football.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Farrell: The older guys on our team who were involved with Uplifting Athletes caught my attention as well as Dr. (David) Fajgenbaum, who I was lucky enough to do research with my sophomore summer. He speaks to our team each year and his fight against Castleman disease is a big reason why I am involved with Uplifting Athletes.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Farrell: I have learned that it is important to use your platform and whatever other resources you have available to help others. I am extremely fortunate to be an Ivy League student-athlete and I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t try to help people in different circumstances. Being involved with UA to help raise money for rare diseases is a way for me to use my voice and platform to help others.

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

Farrell: My favorite part of the game day experience is seeing the final seconds tick off the scoreboard and celebrating a win with my brothers because we play for each other.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Farrell: My favorite NFL player is Damon “Snacks” Harrison because his nickname is funny, and he is on the Giants.

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

Farrell: I would have lunch with my grandpa who died when I was too young to remember him. I can see how much my mom and grandma loved him, and I can only imagine what it would be like to talk to him now. I think he would have had a significant impact on my life and I think about him a lot.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Farrell: My favorite road stadium that I’ve played in is Dartmouth. The night games there are awesome and they have a great atmosphere, and although the bus ride back home is long, it’s peaceful and makes the win all the more worthwhile.

HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Farrell: Chicken-bacon-ranch from Francesca’s in River Vale, New Jersey

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Farrell: Freestyle by Lil Baby, Good Life by Collie Buddz, and DEEPER THAN RAP by YG

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Farrell: Popeyes

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Farrell: University of Pennsylvania Football

What is the most used app on your phone?

Farrell: XOS ThunderCloud

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Farrell: Be in my 4th year of medical school applying for residency positions

 

 

 

Saint Francis Chapter Leader and defensive back Nick Rinella featured in latest Beyond The Trophy series


RINELLA IMAGEEach 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 Rinella

College: Saint Francis University

Height, weight, class, position: 5-foot-10, 200-pound, junior, safety

High School: LaSalle College HS, Collegeville, Pa.

About Rinella: Arrived at Saint Francis as a highly decorated high school player on both side of the ball, earning first-team All-State honors as a senior. Played right away as a freshman on special teams and has started as a safety the last two seasons for the Red Flash. … Serves as a leader for the SFU Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. … Has recorded more than 1,100 yards as a kickoff and punt return specialist with three punts returns for touchdowns. … Has 110 tackles and four interceptions in 15 games as a starter at safety. … In 2017 was second-team All-NEC as a punt return specialist and a CoSIDA Academic All-District selction.

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

Rinella: My first career punt return against Robert Morris my sophomore year.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: I wanted to help make a difference in this world and I wanted to get involved with something on campus. Uplifting Athletes felt like such a good opportunity and experience to pass up.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Rinella: That there are so many people out there with rare disease stories that no one knows about. That there are so many people out there trying to make a difference for these people that just aren’t being heard and we have a great opportunity to change that.

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

Rinella: Walking down to the field through the tailgating parking lot and seeing all the support we have and hear all the fans cheering as we walk by.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Rinella: Earl Thomas because I love the way he plays the game and how he continues to learn more and more about the game each year. Plus, it helps that he is the best safety in the league.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Rinella: Montana’s because it was electrifying and so big. It was a really neat experience.

 HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Rinella: Meat Lovers

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Rinella: FEFE; Barbie Dreams; Don’t

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Rinella: Wendy’s

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Rinella: The Chicago Bears

What is the most used app on your phone?

Rinella: Snapchat

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Rinella: To be playing as an All-Pro in the NFL

 

 

 

 

 

Penn State Chapter leader Trace McSorley announced as finalist for NFF William V. Campbell Trophy


NFF William V Campbell_ TraceCongratulations to Penn State Uplifting Athletes Chapter Leader Trace McSorley on being named a finalist for the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy, which annually recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.

The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced 13 finalists, who will each receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the 60th NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class.

“Trace is a tremendous leader on and off the field. He has been a pleasure to work with in his roles as our Penn State Chapter President and Vice President,” Uplifting Athletes Director Sports Impact Brett Brackett said. “He has a passion for the Rare Disease Community and is far more than just one of the best quarterbacks in the nation … he is one of the most well-rounded student-athletes I’ve ever met or had the privilege to work with.”

All 13 finalists will travel to New York City for the 61st NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Dec. 4, where their accomplishments will be highlighted in front of one of the most powerful audiences in all of sports.

At the event, which will take place at the New York Hilton Midtown, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the 29th William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.

The 13 finalists were selected from a nationwide pool of 179 exceptional semifinalists chosen from all NCAA divisions and the NAIA.

Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the Campbell Trophy and NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Three other finalists, Drue Tranquill (Notre Dame), Ryan Finley (NC State) and Christian Wilkins (Clemson), participated in Uplifting Athletes chapter events at their schools.

Illinois Chapter President Nick Allegretti and Saint Francis Chapter President Mike Ames were among the 179 semifinalists.

 

 

 

Davidson Chapter leader and defensive back Kevin Stipe featured in latest Beyond The Trophy series


STIPEEach 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: Kevin Stipe

College: Davidson College

Height, weight, class, position: 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, junior, cornerback

High School: Wesleyan HS in Alpharetta, Georgia

About Stipe: After appearing in six games as a true freshman in 2016 where he made a dozen tackles and recorded his first collegiate interception, Stipe missed most of last season when he suffered an injury after appearing in two games. … Co-founder and leader of the Davidson Chapter of Uplifting Athletes, Stipe has served as an inspirational leader in getting the Wildcats chapter up and running to serve the Rare Disease Community. … This season he has appeared in four games while coming back from injury and has recorded three tackles. … Named to the 2017 Pioneer Football League (PFL) Academic Honor Roll in 2017.

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

Stipe: My most memorable experience as a college football player was when I started my first game Freshmen year. My entire family was there for the game to support me.

What drove you to get involved with Uplifting Athletes?

Stipe: I heard about the organization from one of my good friends and teammates, who had heard about it from some of his high school friends. When I learned what the organization was about, I immediately wanted to be a part. I loved the idea of using the platform we have as athletes to promote such a good cause that a lot of people don’t know about.

What have you learned from your experience with Uplifting Athletes?

Stipe: First and foremost, I have learned how important it is to take the time to give back to others in need. Whether this is holding events to raise money for those in the rare disease community that need our support, or simply visiting children’s hospitals to brighten someone’s day, spending time giving back to others is extremely important. I have also learned how to be a more effective leader and how to communicate more effectively. I have learned so many skills and valuable lessons from my experiences with Uplifting Athletes.

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

Stipe: My favorite part of a home game day is having more down time to mentally and physically prepare for the game.

Who is your favorite NFL player and why?

Stipe: Cam Newton because of his style of play and the way he has fun playing the game he loves.

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

Stipe: Probably one of my grandparents that I didn’t get to spend much time with. I would love to ask them about all their experiences and stories I have heard over the years.

What is your favorite road stadium you ever played in and why?

Stipe: Western Carolina because of the enormous band and crazy atmosphere.

 HOT SEAT QUESTIONS

What is your perfect pizza?

Stipe: BBQ Chicken

Last 3 songs you added to your playlist?

Stipe: In My Feelings- Drake; Sicko Mode- Travis Scott and Hopeless Romantic- Wiz Khalifa

What is your go-to fast food restaurant?

Stipe: Chick-fil-A

Favorite sports team (any sport)?

Stipe: Atlanta Braves

What is the most used app on your phone?

Stipe: Twitter

No. 1 goal for yourself in 5 years?

Stipe: Work in the Financial Industry in Atlanta, close to my family