About Us

Uplifting Athletes is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2007.

Mission

Harness the power of sport to build a community that invests in the lives of people impacted by rare diseases.

Vision

No person impacted by a rare disease feels alone and everyone is inspired with hope for the future.

Core Values

Integrity.
Collaboration.
Empathy.
Passion.

Our Story

Uplifting Athletes was started by Penn State University football player Scott Shirley in 2003, with the intention of shining a light on the challenges rare disease families like his own face on a day-to-day basis.

The Penn State football team rallied aroundn their teammate and leveraged one of their summer strength and conditioning workouts into a fundraising competition called Lift For Life. By opening the event up to fans and the media, they realized that the benefits of this new organization were far greater than they had imagined.

Since day one Uplifting Athletes has focused on using the platform of college athletics raise the awareness of rare diseases while providing student-athletes with a valuable leadership experience as well.

University Chapters

With more than three dozen chapters at universities nationwide, the athletes who run Uplifting Athletes chapters drive home the organization’s mission and vision through signature events such as Lift For Life and Touch Down Pledge Drive.

Uplifting Athletes provides an opportunity for our student-athletes to enhance the valuable skills they develop on the college football playing field and hone in on transferable life and leadership skills that are necessary for careers after athletics.

Uplifting Athletes Today

More than a dozen years later, our cause remains the same with an evolved mission and growing community.

All the annual events and fundraisers associated with Uplifting Athletes fuels its programs and areas of focus in rare disease awareness, research, Uplifting Experiences, and Uplifting Leaders.

Since its inception, Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $8 million to support its mission.

Our Why

Notre Dame UE

1 in 10 Americans will be diagnosed with a rare disease

A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time.

There are more than 10,000

different rare diseases that collectively affect more than 30 million Americans.

Rare diseases are often chronic, progressive, degenerative and life- threatening.

30%

of children with a rare disease will not live to see their fifth birthday.

50%

of rare diseases affect children

Key Leadership

Current Chapter Leaders
Michael Mastrodicasa

Michael Mastrodicasa

Baylor

President

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Cooper Dawson

Charleston Southern

President

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Michael Allen

Baylor

Chapter Leader

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Hombre Kennedy

Hombre Kennedy

Charleston Southern

Vice President

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Brannon Spector

Brannon Spector

Clemson

President

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Blackmon Huckabee

Blackmon Huckabee

Clemson

Vice President

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Arthur Hamlin

Colgate

President

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Storm Monroe

Storm Monroe

Davidson

President

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Quentin James

Quentin James

Davidson

Vice President

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Tim Varga

Tim Varga

Eastern Illinois

President - Football

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Cameron Leach

Cameron Leach

Eastern Illinois

Vice President - Football

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Kenzie Balcerak

Kenzie Balcerak

Eastern Illinois

President - Women's Soccer

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Jenna Little

Jenna Little

Eastern Illinois

Vice President - Women's Soccer

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Shaun Hastings

Shaun Hastings

East Tennessee State

President

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Blake Austin

Blake Austin

East Tennessee State

Vice President

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Chaz Neal

Chaz Neal

Florida Atlantic

President

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Keyshawn Helton

Keyshawn Helton

Florida State

President

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Josh Burrell

Josh Burrell

Florida State

Vice President

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Ryan Joyce

Ryan Joyce

Fordham

President

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Lucas Portes

Lucas Portes

Fordham

Vice President

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Ryan Spiers

Ryan Spiers

Georgia Tech

President

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Will Scissum

Will Scissum

Georgia Tech

Vice President

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Alex Palczewski

Alex Palczewski

Illinois

President

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Michael Marchese

Michael Marchese

Illinois

Vice President

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Isaac Vance

Isaac Vance

Kent State

President

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Nico Bolden

Nico Bolden

Kent State

Vice President

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Dante Perri

Dante Perri

Lehigh

President

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LaTreil Wimberly

LaTreil Wimberly

Lehigh

Vice President

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Paul Olivett

Marist

President

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Luke Paladino

Luke Paladino

Marist

Vice President

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Eric Najarian

Eric Najarian

Maryland

President

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Camden Woods

Camden Woods

NC State

President

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Peter Snodgrass

Peter Snodgrass

Northwestern

President

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Joe Spivak

Joe Spivak

Northwestern

Vice President

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Drew White

Drew White

Notre Dame

President

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JD Bertrand

JD Bertrand

Notre Dame

Vice President

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Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill

Penn

President

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Chris Stoll

Chris Stoll

Penn State

President

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Luke Aschenbrand

Luke Aschenbrand

Princeton

President

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Harrison Caponiti

Harrison Caponiti

Princeton

Vice President

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Dom Clark

Dom Clark

Saint Francis

President

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Colt Jennings

Colt Jennings

Saint Francis

Vice President

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Regan Craig

Regan Craig

Stony Brook

President

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Kyle Nunez

Kyle Nunez

Stony Brook

Vice President

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Aaron Bolinsky

Aaron Bolinsky

Syracuse

President

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Joey Kelly

Joey Kelly

Syracuse

Vice President

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Zaire Barnes

Zaire Barnes

Western Michigan

President

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Headshot of Boone Bonnema

Boone Bonnema

Western Michigan

Chapter Leader

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Staff
Headshot of Robert Long

Robert M. Long

Executive Director

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Brett Brackett

Brett Brackett

General Manager

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Aimei Lund

Aimei Lund

Rare Disease Impact Manager

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Andrew P. Shay

Andrew P. Shay

Community Relationship Specialist

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Pat O'Connor

Communications Manager

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Mitch Hymowitz

Mitch Hymowitz

Development Manager

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Valaree Machen

Valaree Machen

Senior Manager of Integrated Marketing Communications

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Andrea Pierson

Andrea Pierson

Chapter Success Manager

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Karen Kirkpatrick

Karen Kirkpatrick

Accounting Manager

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Board
John M. Trzeciak

John M. Trzeciak

Interim Board Chair

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David Wozniak

David Wozniak

Vice Chair

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Kerwin Stetler

Kerwin Stetler

Treasurer & Secretary

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Scott Shirley

Scott Shirley

Board Member - Founder

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Keith Deaven

Keith Deaven

Board Member

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Shoshanna Engel-Lewis

Shoshanna Engel-Lewis

Board Member

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Justin Hopkin

Justin Hopkin

Board Member

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Headshot of Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez

Board Member

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Headshot of Pam Rattananont

Pam Rattananont

Board Member

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Scientific Advisory Council
David Eckstein Ph.D.

David Eckstein Ph.D.

NIH Office of the Clinical Research

Scientific Advisor | Program Dir. for Strategic Partnerships & Policy Development

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Benjamin Forred

Benjamin Forred

Sanford Health

Scientific Advisor | Director, Clinical and Translational Research - Genetics & Genomics and the CoRDS Registry

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Reena Kartha, PhD

Reena Kartha, PhD

University of Minnesota

Scientific Advisor | Assistant Professor/Assoc. Director, Center for Orphan Drug Research

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Aimee Layton, PhD

Aimee Layton, PhD

Columbia University

Assistant Professor in Applied Physiology in Pediatrics, Director of the Pediatric Exercise Lab | Scientific Advisor

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Maureen McArthur Hart Ph.D.

Maureen McArthur Hart Ph.D.

Global Genes

Scientific Advisor | Fmr Director of Research

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Scott Schliebner

Scott Schliebner

TFS Health Science

Board Representative | Senior Vice President, Clinical Development Services

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