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.

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.

Rare Disease Champion Mitchell Meyers takes the stage at 2017 Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala

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Uplifting Athletes was proud to honor Iowa State defensive end Mitchell Meyers as its ninth winner of the Rare Disease Champion Award as part of the Maxwell Football Club Gala.

The Rare Disease Champion Award is presented annually to a leader in the world of college football who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.

In between a previous commitment to a speaking engagement for the Iowa Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Thursday night and being a groomsman in the wedding of his best friend in St. Louis Saturday afternoon, Meyers made it to the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City for the gala.

“It was such an honor to be on the stage with so many big-name players at every level of football,” said Meyers, who will graduate in May and already has a job with an international supply-chain company lined up.

Meyers was part of the impressive Maxwell awards program that included: former Pittsburgh running back James Conner, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, Alabama coach Nick Saban, former Duke Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Dallas Cowboys legend and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.

During his acceptance speech, Meyers talked about how shortly after learning of his diagnosis with a rare disease he read former Boston College and current New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich’s book.

The trophy Meyers was presented is cast in the likeness of Herzlich.

“This was meant to be, I guess, with Mark Herzlich and the trophy. That’s so cool,” said Meyers, whose father, Scott, joined him for the awards gala. “His book served as a real inspiration to me.

“Thanks to everyone who voted for me … Iowa State fans are the best. This was a first-class experience for us. It’s my honor to be the Rare Disease Champion.”

Meyers endured a long and difficult 18-month journey with the rare disease Hodgkin’s lymphoma. An impact player in 2013 and 2014 for the Cyclones, Meyers lost his 2015 season when he was diagnosed in February of that year.

His roller coaster treatment for the rare disease included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. Meyers was in the 10 percent of those diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who don’t respond to the first-line treatment.

It would have been easy to just return to school and finish off his degree without playing his final year of eligibility. But Meyers, who admits he had no idea how he would do, wanted to prove to himself he could do it.

With an almost completely new coaching staff in place, Meyers went out and earned a starting spot at defensive end. He played in every game, recorded 30 tackles, was an Academic All-Big 12 selection and was chosen as a team captain.

“This young man had this upbeat spirit about himself going through this, and it can put you in your place really fast,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “One of the best stories in college football.”

Second Penn Chapter Lift For Life exceeds performance goals in the weight room and raises nearly $5,100

penn-lift-for-life-1For the second consecutive year the Penn football team included Uplifting Athletes’ Lift For Life as part of its Iron Quaker – the traditional workout to end the winter workout season.

The Penn Chapter of Uplifting Athletes leadership team devised a bench press competition to drive fundraising for the 2017 Lift For Life.

And all three groups, offense, defense and special teams, exceeded their performance goal.

Lift For Life is the signature fundraising event for the Uplifting Athletes student-athlete led college football chapter network nationwide. Penn’s event kicked off the 2017 Lift For Life season.

The Penn Chapter raised nearly $5,100 to benefit Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

As far as the competition went, the Quakers’ offense that came out on top. The offense and defense each had a goal of averaging 300 pounds per man on the bench press max out. By four pounds, 313-309, the offense nudged out the defense. The special teams average 258 pounds per man – eight pounds above its goal.

Moved by former Quakers wide receiver Kaleb Germinaro, who lost his playing career to a rare disease, Dr. David Fajgenbaum, a Castleman’s Disease Researcher who has the disease himself, and Vhito Decapria, a 6-year-old team captain and brain cancer survivor, the Penn Chapter started tackling rare diseases when it joined Uplifting Athletes in 2015.

Thanks to the Penn Chapter for all its hard work to raise funds for Uplifting Athletes in support of rare disease research and patient focused programs.

Together…We Are…Stronger!


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.

Quartet of former Fighting Illini running Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns during Illinois Pro Day March 16

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Four 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, empowering medical researchers to find cures.

Former Illinois Chapter President Joe Spencer, defensive end Rob Bain, long snapper Michael Martin and punter Ryan Frain each participated in the Illinois Chapter Lift for Life with their teammates.

Fans and supporters can pledge to any or all four players for each bench press repetition they perform at the Illinois Pro Day on March 16th. Choose your favorite Reps For Rare Diseases player and support the rare disease community by making a pledge today.

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

Make your pledge now to join Spencer, Bain, Martin and Frain in the fight against rare diseases.




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.


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.”