Former Illinois Chapter President Joe Spencer wins Coach Wooden Citizen Cup Award


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Former Illini football center and Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes President Joe Spencer recently won the 2017 Coach Wooden Citizen Cup Award given to the most outstanding role model among athletes.

Athletes for a Better World announced Spencer as its winner from among the four finalists Tuesday evening in Atlanta.

The award, named after famed UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, is given to one college, professional and high school athlete (or athletic figure) per year for character and leadership both on and off the field and for contributions to sport and society. Athletes for a Better World presented the Wooden Cup for the 13th year.

Recipients of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup are determined by the Wooden Cup Selection Committee after reviewing voting by the Board of Directors and over 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country.

Spencer’s work in the community and the classroom has been incredible during his four years in Champaign. The 2016 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees’ long list of community involvement includes serving as president of Illinois’ Uplifting Athletes Chapter, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, raising nearly $40,000 for charity in two years by organizing the Illinois Chapter Lift for Life, helping organize Illinois’ student-athlete variety show that has raised over $80,000 in the last five years, being a “Big” at the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, spearheading the Leadership Summit for local middle school students, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and visiting nearly every elementary school in Champaign-Urbana.

Spencer was a team captain for the 2016 Illini football team and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors by the media. He started 37 games during his Illinois career, including 11 this season. Spencer is enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Illinois after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance in May 2016.

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.

 

 

Former Florida State offensive tackle Rod Johnson doing Reps For Rare Diseases at 2017 Pro Day March 28


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Former two-time All-ACC offensive tackle Rod Johnson will make his upcoming NFL Pro Day a platform to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Johnson 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 Johnson performs at Florida State Pro Day on March 28th by visiting his fundraising site.

Florida State’s inspiration for joining Uplifting Athletes to help tackle rare diseases in 2013 was head coach Jimbo Fisher’s son Ethan and his battle with the rare blood disorder Fanconi anemia.

Being involved with the FSU Chapter and Lift For Life in support of his head coach was an important part of Johnson’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,” Johnson said. “I have committed my performance at the Florida State Pro Day to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission.”

Make your pledge now to join Johnson in the fight against rare diseases during Florida State Pro Day.

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.”