Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization of current American college football players, benefiting those with rare diseases. The group was established in 2003 and is a 501(c)3.

The organization was founded in 2003 by a group of Penn State Nittany Lions football players who turned an annual weightlifting competition into a fundraiser. Wide receiver Scott Shirley's father was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2003. When Shirley turned to his teammates for support, he discovered three others also had fathers battling the disease. Because so few (less than 200,000) Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer, funds to fight the disease are scarce.[1] Two of Shirley's teammates, offensive tackle Damone Jones and center Dave Costlow, saw an opportunity for student-athletes to use their high-profile and access to the media to promote awareness and raise funds for under-served charities. The three formed Uplifting Athletes later that year.[2]


Uplifting Athletes' founding chapter is at Penn State University. The football team there has designated the Kidney Cancer Association as their charity. To date the team has raised over $300,000 dollars for that charity. The Penn State chapter raises funds through its annual weight-lifting competition, Lift for Life.[2] The competition features teams of four players competing in 11 strength and conditioning events, such as bench press and the "giant tire flip."[3]

Subsequent chapters have formed at other Universities. Some of the earlier chapters to form include:

In 2009, the Penn State and University of Maryland chapters of Uplifting Athletes hosted events for Rare Disease Day.[4]

In June 2010, for the first time in Uplifting Athletes History, leaders of all current chapters met in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the offices of Uplifting Athletes for a conference to share ideas and learn how to improve the performance of their chapters. The student-athletes learned from industry experts and guest lecturers about such things a better decision making, budgeting, and marketing.[5]

Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease ChampionEdit

Since 2009, Uplifting Athletes has honored a member of the athletic community who suffers from a rare disease with its Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion award.[6] Thus far, all the winners have been affiliated with football:


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