Leverage public interest to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare diseases
Inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope through the power of sport
Develops social influencers into leaders that make a positive impact on the rare disease community
Shares the platform of sport with the rare disease cause and raises it as a national priority
Creates special moments that enrich the lives of rare disease patients and their loved ones
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.
Approximate number of different rare diseases that collectively affect more than 30 million Americans.
Rare diseases are often chronic, progressive, degenerative and life-threatening.
of rare diseases affect children
of children with a rare disease will not live to see their 5th birthday.
Lift For Life
Lift For Life is the original fundraising event that
launched Uplifitng Athletes! The event was
inspired by Don Shirley's battle with a rare
cancer. Now, college football teams across the
country participate in the right-of-passage to
benefit the rare disease community!
Touchdown Pledge Drive
Touchdown Pledge Drive brings awareness and helps raise funds while capitalizing on what our students-athletes do best during our most visible time of the year, college football season.
The UA Ambassador program empowers individual athletes to support the Rare Disease Community by raising money and awareness with their performance. Opportunities include Reps for Rare Diseases at the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day workouts, the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign, and anything else you can imagine!
We are inviting athletes from across the country to support our mission by holding a pledge-based event to raise money for Uplifting Athletes. This program is open to all sports and all levels! Simply click create your campaign below to get started and a member of our staff will reach out to you to help make it a success.
Uplifting Events & Awareness Campaigns
Will Spiers has served the Rare Disease Community for two years in a leadership position for the Clemson Chapter. He took over as the Chapter President in 2019 after attending the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019.
“Here at Clemson, one of our main focuses outside of football is to serve others. Working with Uplifting Athletes and Lift for Life is what it’s all about. We are honored to use our platform to make a difference, serve others, and create hope for the Rare Disease Community.”
Will has started 44 consecutive games, averaging 40.8 yards per punt, was an All-ACC Academic selection in 2017 and was the starting punter for the 2018 National Championship team. Last season as the No. 1 punter his net 41.7 yards average was the second best in Clemson program history.
A former walk-on for the Tigers, the South Carolina native is the son of Clemson Hall of Famer Bill Spiers, who was the starting punter in 1986.
Triston Fairchild took over a leadership role for the second oldest chapter in the Uplifting Athletes network. He attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and armed with a commitment to support the Rare Disease Community helped guide the defending Patriot League Champion Raiders to a successful 2019 Lift For Life as the Chapter President.
“Lift For Life and Uplifting Athletes exemplifies how to utilize the college football platform to create change. Colgate football is honored to be able to work with Uplifting Athletes to inspire hope for a better future within the Rare Disease Community.”
The native of Nebraska has appeared in five games the last two seasons for the Raiders as a reserve running back. Triston has six career carries and was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll in 2018.
Bobby Walker spent two years as a leader of the Illinois Chapter learning the ropes of how to best serve the Rare Disease Community under the guidance of former Illini Chapter President Nick Allegretti. Walker attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019, has participated in Lift For Life events since 2016 and is now the President of the Illinois Chapter.
“At the University of Illinois, Uplifting Athletes and it’s Lift for Life are a tradition. Uplifting Athletes is a tremendous way for our teammates to use their platform as college athletes. We all care about what we do on the field, but the work outside of it is very important as well, which is why this event is so important to us.”
The Illinois native was a walk-on to the Illini football program and made his college football debut as a redshirt freshman in 2016. He was awarded a full scholarship in December 2017 by head coach Lovie Smith. Walker has appeared in all 24 games for the Illini the last two seasons (2017 and 2018) primarily on special teams and as a back-up tight end.
Sean Christie took over the Maryland Chapter at the start of 2019 because he felt a strong commitment to giving back and helping others. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in January and made a commitment to hold a Lift For Life again in 2019 after the Terrapins did not hold an Uplifting Athletes event in 2018. Sean is the Chapter President and proud of the history behind the Maryland Chapter.
A redshirt senior from Medford, N.Y., Sean has started all 12 games each of the last two seasons for the Terrapins at left guard and his projected to be the starter at the same position for the 2019 season. Entering his final season, the sociology major has seen action in nearly 40 games for Maryland on offense and special teams.
Thomas Ruocchio has been part of the leadership team for the NC State Chapter since he was a freshman. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He worked his way up, learning the ropes of running an Uplifting Athletes Chapter, and is now the NC State Chapter President. He has a passion for the Rare Disease Community and has been instrumental in NC State’s success with Lift For Life, Touchdown Pledge Drive and landing NFL prospects to be part of Reps For Rare Diseases.
A native of Raleigh, NC who graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School, Thomas was a walk-on tight end for the Wolfpack. He saw his first collegiate snaps in 2017 as a redshirt freshman and just prior to the 2019 season was awarded a scholarship. He has appeared in 25 games the last two seasons, including seven games where he saw snaps at tight end.
Peter Snodgrass has been inspiring the Rare Disease Community for more than two years in a leadership role for the Northwestern Chapter and is now the Chapter President. Peter has been instrumental in continuing a strong tradition of outstanding football student-athlete leaders for the Wildcats. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019, learning to become a stronger voice and inspiration to the Rare Disease Community.
“Uplifting Athletes is the first time I have been able to use my voice as a student-athlete to help others. Watching my brothers rally around the Rare Disease Community is truly THE most inspiring experience I have had at Northwestern. As a leader of our chapter, I have seen first hand the value that my teammates and I can give to the Rare Disease Community.”
A native of Palo Alto, California, Peter was a four-year captain during his high school years and played linebacker, center and long snapper. The redshirt sophomore is a long snapper for the Wildcats and made his collegiate debut in 2019, appearing in three games. The economics major and former Eagle Scout and President’s Gold Award honoree for community service has a heart for giving back.
SOPHOMORE SEASON (2017)
- Practiced for the Irish but did not participate in games
- Helped the Notre Dame defensive scout team during game preparation
FRESHMAN SEASON (2016)
- Did not see any game action during the season
- Helped the Notre Dame defensive scout team during game preparation
HIGH SCHOOL AND PERSONAL DATA
- 2015 First Team All-Eastern Kansas League
- 2015 Kpreps Class 5A All-Kansas Team
- Registered 56 tackles, six for loss, three interceptions and 14 PBUs as a senior in 2015
- 2014 Kpreps Class 5A All-Kansas Team
- Registered 74.5 tackles, two for loss, five interceptions and 23 PBUs as a junior in 2014
- Enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, majoring in finance with a double minor in collaborative innovation and innovation and entrepreneurship
Michael Rolfe moved into a leadership role with the Quakers Chapter after his junior season. He attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and took over as the Penn Chapter President. He was pivotal in helping get Lift For Life and Penn’s Iron Quaker paired up again as a single event. The Penn Chapter had a very successful Lift For Life in February 2019.
“Being able to pair the Iron Quaker with the Lift for Life is extremely important for our football team. It gives us the opportunity to use our platform as Division 1 student-athletes to help those who are affected by rare diseases”
Michael hails from Scarsdale, New York and has played in 18 games for Penn the last two seasons on special teams and linebacker. The senior registered tackles in four games in 2018. He was an all-state selection coming out of high school and guided Scarsdale to its only two program playoff victories as a team captain.
Sean Clifford takes over as the Penn State Chapter President and becomes the second Nittany Lions quarterback in the last five years to serve as the PSU Chapter President following in the footsteps of recently graduated QB Trace McSorley. Sean has a passion for the Rare Disease Community and attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019 and spent two years in a chapter leadership role.
“It has been a privilege to be a small part of such a big impact in many families lives. Penn State is driven to help the Rare Disease Community because we know how important this cause is, and we see the significance in the bigger picture.”
Sean was born in Illinois but hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the son of Kelly Burke and John Clifford and his younger brother, Liam, recently received a scholarship offer from Penn State. The business major also enjoys coaching young quarterbacks, playing golf and shooting hoops. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Sean owns the Penn State record for longest pass play and play from scrimmage after he connected with Daniel George on a 95-yard TD strike in 2018 against Kent State.
2018 • REDSHIRT FRESHMAN SEASON
Did not see any game action.
2017 • TRUE FRESHMAN SEASON
A three-time letterwinner for head coach Ryan Wiggins at St. Francis DeSales High School...Helped the Stallions to a 31-9 record in his career...Two-time Prokicker.com All-America long snapper selection as a junior and senior...Also lettered in lacrosse four times, hockey three times and basketball once...Was a three-time academic all-conference choice for hockey...Named third-team all-state as an attackman for lacrosse as a senior...Earned all-region distinction three times for lacrosse, including first team accolades as a junior and senior.
Full name is Christopher Michael Stoll...Son of Kelly and Ken Stoll...Has one sister, Jordan...Father, Ken, played football at Wittenberg University...Sister, Jordan, participated in track & field at Otterbein University...Hobbies include video games, reading and sleeping...Intends on majoring in kinesiology with plans to become a physical therapist...Born August 3, 1998 in Columbus, Ohio.
Luke Aschenbrand is a sophomore from Arizona who attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2019 and immediately wanted to become heavily involved in using his platform to support the cause. So Luke took over as the President of the Princeton Chapter and guided the Tigers through Lift For Life in 2019 and again attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2020.
“Uplifting Athletes has given me a humbling and incredible opportunity to help give back to the community. Meeting rare disease patients who appreciate the effort we put in and are thankful for the outreach of their message makes what I do worth it.”
A two-sport athlete coming out of high school, Luke played multiple positions on both sides of the ball for his high school team and is projected to be an offensive lineman at Princeton.
Nick Rinella has been involved with Saint Francis Chapter for three years. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 to learn the ropes as a chapter leader and came to the conference again in 2019 as the new Chapter President. He has a passion for the Rare Disease Community and has worked hard on his campus to get other sports involved in the cause to raise awareness.
“It is an honor to be able to use our platform to help raise awareness and support the Rare Disease Community through Uplifting Athletes. We are all proud to be part of a team that is working so hard to tackle rare diseases.”
A diverse athlete coming out of high school in suburban Philadelphia, Nick has played a role for the Red Flash since he walked on campus in 2016 - playing in all 33 games the last three years. The last two seasons he has been an All-NEC selection as a return specialist and in 2018 he also earned All-NEC honors as a safety.
Zach Lucas participated in the Stony Brook Chapter Lift For Life before joining the leadership team in 2018. He learned the details behind running a chapter and the importance of the Rare Disease Community to the SeaWolves’ football program. He took over as the Chapter President in 2019 and attended the Leadership Development Conference in January of 2019 before overseeing the Stony Brook Chapter Lift For Life.
The New Jersey native has played in 22 games the past two seasons primarily on special teams. In 2018 he also saw action at tight end where he registered his first collegiate catch against Towson on October 6 and finished the year with a pair of grabs for 25 yards. In the spring of 2018, Zach was named the CAA Academic Honor Roll.
Sam Heckel continues a tradition of strong leadership at the top for the Syracuse Chapter. He knew as soon as he arrived on campus he wanted to be involved in Uplifting Athletes. That’s because Sam knows and understands the Rare Disease Community intimately. He is a rare disease patient. Sam has congenital TTP, a rare blood disorder that requires him to undergo plasmatherapy every three weeks. He nearly lost his life to his rare blood disorder at one point and now understands the platform he’s been afforded as an athlete allows him to use his voice to serve others and give back. Sam attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and 2019. He has been the Syracuse Chapter President the last two years, guiding the Orange through a pair of Lift For Life events.
“The Rare Disease Community has a special place in my heart. Syracuse football and its chapter of Uplifting Athletes is excited to raise awareness and funding for the Rare Disease Community.”
The redshirt junior native of Wisconsin appeared in all 25 games as an offensive lineman for the Orange in 2017 and 2018 with 13 starts. He was a full-time starter in 2017 as a guard and led Syracuse that year in knockdown blocks. Last year he was the “sixth man” up front and appeared in all 13 games at center or guard and made one start.
Justin Tranquill attended the 2018 Leadership Development Conference and was instrumental, along with teammate Jamauri Bogan, in helping co-found the Western Michigan Chapter. He ascended to the role of Chapter President following the 2018 football season and after more than 18 months of hard work that saw the WMU Chapter hold a Rare Disease Awareness Game and participate in Touchdown Pledge Drive in 2018, the Broncos held their inaugural Lift For Life in the late spring of 2019.
“Lift for Life and Uplifting Athletes has broadened our sense of purpose beyond football here at Western. We realize that we have an opportunity to be a voice for those who do not have one. Our program is thankful to have a small part in inspiring hope within the Rare Disease Community”
A standout four-star prospect coming out of high school with several Power 5 Conference offers, Justin made his first impact for WMU as a redshirt freshman in 2016 when he started all 14 games and made 89 tackles from his safety position. In 2017 he started two games before suffering a season-ending injury against Michigan State. Justin returned to his starting role in 2018, making 12 starts, and finished third on the team in tackles with 89 and recorded his first career interception. He is a two-time Academic All-MAC selection.
Jack Maddox became a chapter leader at Clemson following the 2018 season. He took over the role of Vice President for the Clemson Chapter and assisted in landing NFL prospects to be part of Reps For Rare Diseases 2019 and helped oversee the Tigers’ Lift For Life that summer. Jack attended the Leadership Development Conference in January of 2019 and is making sure the defending National Champions use their platform as college football student athletes to serve and inspire hope in the Rare Disease Community.
A native of Acton, Mass., Jack is a redshirt sophomore long snapper for the Tigers who made his collegiate debut against NC State in 2018 and also appeared in the game against Louisville. Last season Jack saw action in nine games and was a major contributor on special teams. He is majoring in political science and is a two-time ACC Honor Roll selection.
Dylan Autentrieth has been a driving force behind the success of the NC State Chapter for three years. He has helped organize and participated in three Lift for Life events and has attended the Leadership Development Conference twice. Dylan is passionate about servicing the Rare Disease Community and feels his work is making a difference.
After two seasons as a situational tight end for the Wolfpack, the Georgia native had moved up the depth chart and was named the starting tight end and team captain for the 2019 season. In only his third start, Dylan went down with a knee injury that ended his year. He was granted an extra year of eligibility and will return in 2020 to stake his claim for the No. 1 tight end spot again.
Joe Detorie participated in several Seawolves Lift For Life events before stepping forward and taking a leadership role for the Stony Brook Chapter in 2018. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in January of 2019 as the chapter Vice President and played an instrumental role in Stony Brook holding another successful Lift For Life to inspire and support the Rare Disease Community.
Hailing from Fallston, Md., Joe is a redshirt senior offensive lineman who has appeared in 26 games heading into the 2019 season. Over the previous two seasons, 2017 and 2018, he made 22 starts at center for the Seawovles and is instrumental in their success as on offense built on a strong running game.
When the FSU program went through a transition of leadership, DeCalon Brooks stepped forward and took a leadership role in helping Uplifting Athletes remain a part of the Seminoles’ program. The Tampa native attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and was inspired by the rare disease cause and the programming to have an impact. In 2019, the Florida State held a Lift For Life after a one-year absence from the calendar and Brooks, the President of the FSU Chapter, played an instrumental role in making the event to support the Rare Disease Community happen.
“Lift for life and Uplifting Athletes are a special part of Florida State Football. We are all about helping out those who are in need and kids that aren’t able to do the things that they desire. My teammates and I are proud to team up with Uplifting Athletes. We find it very fulfilling to raise money for research towards rare diseases. We are proud to help and be a part of tackling rare diseases.”
Brooks followed in the footsteps of his father, NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, by choosing Florida State. And the redshirt sophomore is making his mark. In 2018, as a redshirt freshman, he played in 11 games with seven starts, recorded 46 tackles including three tackles for a loss and one sack. In 2019 he played in 11 games and was nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy.
Joe Spivak joined the leadership team of Northwestern’s Uplifting Athletes’ Chapter in 2018, serving as the chapter Vice President in 2019. Joe attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and became passionate about the rare disease cause. He helped guide the Northwestern Chapter to a successful 2019 Lift For Life
”I love football... but even more than that, I love the relationships that football has brought into my life. I believe that Uplifting Athletes is extending these unbreakable bonds into a community that needs them more than ever,” Northwestern Chapter Vice President Joe Spivak said. “I think most of the guys all agree that the money we raise is awesome, but to be able to serve as an example and extension of FAMILY to these families is what is really awesome! Uplifting Athletes brings us all together on the same team.”
The junior defensive tackle was one of 12 first-year players to see action for the Wildcats in 2017. As a true freshman he appeared in a handful of games as a back-up along the defensive line. In 2018, as a sophomore, he appeared in 10 games for the Big Ten West Champions and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection. Last year he appeared in all 12 games and recorded his first sack and tackle for a loss.
Career Overview: Fourth-year placekicker and punter ... Carved out an important role in 2018 as holder for record-setting kicker Ande Szmyt … Joined the team during 2016 preseason camp … Member of the Syracuse Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in 2017-18 ... Chief operating officer for the Syracuse chapter of Uplifting Athletes … Four-time member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and two-time ACC Honor Roll selection ... Redshirted in 2016 ... One letter.
Sophomore Year (2018): Appeared in every game as the holder for PATs and field goals ... Reliable ball spotter for All-America kicker and Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt, who led the nation in field goals (30) and did not miss an extra point (61-61).
Freshman Year (2017): Did not play in any games ... ACC Honor Roll selection … Member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll both semesters.
2016: Redshirt season ... ACC Honor Roll selection … Member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll both semesters.
Prep School: Spent the 2015 season at Bridgton Academy in Maine ... Punter and kicker for head coach Juwan Jackson.
High School: Three-sport standout in baseball, soccer and basketball ... Rated the top prospect at the Ray Guy Prokicker.com 2014 regional combine in Boston ... Batted .400 as a senior catcher to help the East Greenwich baseball team to a 12-6 record against Division I competition.
Personal: Nolan Joseph Cooney ... Born in September 1996 in Summit, N.J. ... Son of Joseph and Janice Cooney ... Mother, Janice, attended Syracuse University ... One sister ... Sport management major.
Hunter Hayes moved into a leadership role with the Quakers Chapter after his junior season. He attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and took over as the Penn Chapter Vice President. He was pivotal in helping get Lift For Life and Penn’s Iron Quaker paired up again as a single event. The Penn Chapter had a very successful Lift For Life in February 2019.
“Being able to pair the Iron Quaker with the Lift for Life is extremely important for our football team. It gives us the opportunity to use our platform as Division 1 student-athletes to help those who are affected by rare diseases”
The Pennsylvania native and two-time high school state champion from South Fayette High School has appeared in 10 games each of the last two seasons. In 2018 he saw action at linebacker and on special teams, finishing 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Brock Wright joined the leadership team at Notre Dame after participating in the 2018 Lift For Life event. The native of Texas attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference and serves as a Notre Dame Chapter Vice President and helped guide the Fighting Irish through their annual Uplifting Experience Bowling Event with rare disease patients, siblings and caregivers and the second Lift For Life at Notre Dame.
“Uplifting Athletes is an incredible opportunity for us to use our platform as college athletes to raise awareness for a great cause. It is very special for our program to be able to work with an organization that can make an impact in the fight against rare diseases. The Lift for Life and Uplifting Experience Bowling Event gives us a chance to contribute to this fight.”
Enrolled at Notre Dame as one of the top tight recruits in the country from the 2017 recruiting class. Played right away as a true freshman after enrolling early, appearing in 11 games primarily on special teams. During the 2018 run to the College Football Playoffs, Wright appeared in 12 games and notched his first career touchdown reception.
Drew White participated in the inaugural Notre Dame Chapter Lift For Life in 2018 and was inspired to take on a bigger role for the Fighting Irish. He volunteered to become a Chapter Leader and attended the Leadership Development Conference in January, 2019. Drew is motivated by the rare disease cause and wants to make a difference. He was instrumental in Notre Dame’s record-breaking Lift For Life in 2019 and is inspired to use his platform to give a voice to the Rare Disease Community.
A marquee linebacker recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Boca Raton, FL, Drew spent his freshman year on the scout team before appearing in four games as a sophomore and totaling eight tackles in 2018. He started 11 games in 2019, finished tied for the team lead in tackles with 80 and had the single-high tackle game for the year with 11 against Michigan.
Zaire Barnes is part of the second wave of leaders for Western Michigan Chapter after co-founders Jamauri Bogan and Justin Tranquill move on. He joined the leadership team at WMU after his 2018 freshman season and attended the Leadership Development Conference. Holding a Lift For Life is an important big step for a new chapter, and Zaire served as chapter Vice President when the Western Michigan Chapter held its inaugural signature event to inspire the Rare Disease Community with hope.
A native of Illinois, Zaire appeared in all 13 games for the Broncos as a true freshman in 2018 and made 11 starts at linebacker in 2019. He recorded his first tackle for a loss last season and finished with a career-high 29 tackles for the season.
Antwan Dixon was a member of the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team in 2019 and, as a rare disease patient with the rare blood disorder aplastic anemia, Antwan is inspired to use his platform as a college football student-athlete to give back to others in the Rare Disease Community. Antwan attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Development Conference in 2019 and 2020 and worked with his teammates and university football support staff to launch the Kent State Chapter. As the Kent State Chapter President, Antwan and his Golden Flashes teammates held their inaugural Lift For Life in July, 2019.
“Having the opportunity to give back to others, as a member of the Rare Disease Community myself, is very important to me. Also, having my teammates and coaches being all in so that we can raise money for raise disease patients is such a blessing. We are all proud to be part of a team that is working so hard to Tackle Rare Diseases.”
Antwan is a native of South Fort Myers, Fla. and played as a true freshman in 2015, registering 26 catches for 355 yards. He scored a touchdown in his very first collegiate game. He missed the next two seasons during his long and difficult battle with aplastic anemia, but returned to the field after a 36-month absence in 2018 and appeared in all 12 games with seven starts. He was second on the team in catches, receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass in his first game back against Illinois. Antwan was recognized as the 2018 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year and the Columbus Touchdown Club Male Athlete of the Year. In 2019 he played in all 13 games and had a season-high 99 yards and a touchdown in the Golden Flashes’ bowl victory.
Jamal Parker was inspired by his teammate and friend, Antwan Dixon, to help Kent State launch an Uplifting Athletes Chapter. Antwan endured a long battle with his rare blood disorder, aplastic anemia, and returned to the field after a 36-month absence. That was enough for Jamal to take on a leadership role and join Antwan in serving the rest of the Rare Disease Community by lending another voice of support at Kent State. He is the chapter Vice President and co-founder and attended the 2019 Leadership Development Conference.
Jamal has been an impact player in the defensive backfield from the moment he stepped on campus. The New Jersey native appeared in all 12 games with seven starts as a freshman in 2016 and entering his final season in 2019 he’s made more than 150 tackles with six interceptions from his cornerback position. He already has appeared in 35 games for Kent State with 28 of those being starts.
In the early stages of possibly starting an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at Lehigh, Jorge Portorreal was one of the players in the team room that stepped forward and said he was inspired by the cause of serving the Rare Disease Community and is willing to volunteer for a leadership role. He attended the 2018 Leadership Development Conference to gain more knowledge and along with his fellow leaders worked hard in stages to put the necessary pieces in place to fully launch a chapter at Lehigh. Earlier in 2019, after participating in Touchdown Pledge Drive 2018, Lehigh held its inaugural Lift For Life and it was very successful for a first-year signature fundraising and awareness event. Jorge has two years of eligibility remaining and is the Lehigh Chapter President.
The native of New Jersey has been an impact wide receiver for Lehigh his first two seasons. He started seven games as a freshman in 2017 and in 2018 the finance major led Mountain Hawks in receiving with 55 catches for nearly 800 yards with three touchdowns. He was named First Team All-Patriot League following the 2018 season.
Divine Buckrham was a young player having an impact on the field, but he was looking to use that platform to have an impact off the field. He volunteered to become a leader and co-founder of the Lehigh Chapter in the infancy stages, attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2018 and, as the chapter Vice President, was instrumental in Lehigh holding its inaugural Lift For Life to support the Rare Disease Community in 2019.
From Queens in New York City, Divine has been a key player for the Mountain Hawks since he first set foot on campus as a health, medicine and society major. As a freshman in 2017 he appeared in all 12 games including seven starts. Last season he appeared in 11 games with eight starts and late in the year was moved from rover defensive back to corner and finished strong. In 2019 he moved to safety and appeared in 10 games, including a victory clinching tackle on the 1-yard-line on the final play at Colgate.
Jonah Isaac stepped forward as a leader when Fordham wanted to re-engage and once again be an active Uplifting Athletes Chapter. The football program already had a rich history of supporting the Rare Disease Community dating back to 2011. Jonah volunteered to serve in the role of Vice President and in 2018 the Fordham Chapter was back on the Lift For Life calendar. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2019.
A senior wide receiver who hails from Illinois, Jonah has appeared in 20 games over his first three seasons in back-up role. He has four career receptions and is a strong candidate to be a potential starter in 2019. Jonah was a 2018 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection.
Deondre Carter stepped forward as a leader when Fordham wanted to re-engage and once again be an active Uplifting Athletes Chapter. The football program already had a rich history of supporting the Rare Disease Community dating back to 2011. Deondre volunteered to serve in the role of chapter President and in 2018 the Fordham Chapter was back on the Lift For Life calendar. He attended the Leadership Development Conference in 2019.
The junior defensive end from Texas has been an impact player from the moment he arrived on campus by appearing in 11 games and recording 25 tackles at a freshman in 2017. The two-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll honoree moved into a starting role the second half of the 2018 season and finished with 33 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and one sack.
Paul Olivett is a graduate of State College High School, home of Penn State University. He was familiar with Uplifting Athletes through the Penn State Chapter and its Lift For Life event and wants to use his platform as a college football player to make a difference at Marist. So the redshirt freshman contacted the Uplifting Athletes staff early in 2019 and worked hard to launch the Marist Chapter. In early May of that year, the Red Foxes held their inaugural Lift For Life
“Starting an Uplifting Athletes chapter at Marist is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on. I’ve always wanted to get involved in the community and help those who need it and with Uplifting Athletes I believe that’s possible. Using the platform of Uplifting Athletes and the Marist Football team I hope we are able to continue the goal of spreading awareness and support for rare diseases. On behalf of Marist and the football team we cannot thank Uplifting Athletes enough and look forward to being apart of the many college teams tackling rare diseases.”
A redshirt freshman, who will play safety after a standout high school career, Paul made his collegiate debut during the 2019 season and recorded his first tackle against Dartmouth
Jaylon Banks is a redshirt sophomore quarterback who helped Eastern Illinois launch an Uplifting Athletes Chapter at rapid-fire pace in 2019. EIU held its inaugural Lift For Life in 2019 and the value of the signature event and the rare disease cause inspired Jaylon to step forward and assume the role of Chapter President. He knows as the quarterback he is already in a high-profile position, and he wants to use that platform to help inspire the Rare Disease Community off the field.
The native of Illinois set record at Oswego East High School his senior season and after a redshirt year in 2017, Jaylon appeared in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2018. He made his collegiate debut against Tennessee Tech. Jaylon is not projected to be the quarterback in 2019, but he will play at a variety of positions on offense because he is a weapon and asset who needs to be on the field.
A suburban Philadelphia native, Rob is a former All-American punter at Syracuse and has lived the rare disease journey. In December of 2010, late in his senior season, Rob was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. His prognosis at the time was less than encouraging, and his surgery, recovery and treatment took 16 months. Prior to his diagnosis, Rob was on a path to the NFL as a punter, but that opportunity was lost by the time he was healthy enough to train again. A graduate of Syracuse University, Rob pursued a Masters in New Media Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He also received a B.S. from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
Rob played football all four years for the Orange and was voted by his teammates as a team captain his final two seasons. He became the second Executive Director of Uplifting Athletes at the end of 2018. Prior to taking over as the Executive Director, Rob served as Uplifting Athletes' Director of Rare Disease Engagement for nearly two years. Rob has a steadfast commitment and connection to the Rare Disease Community as a rare brain cancer patient. As a former star college football student-athlete, his passion and drive to advance the mission of Uplifting Athletes is inspirational. Rob and his wife, Irie, reside in South Philadelphia.
The New Jersey native has an innate passion for helping others and directs that passion towards the Rare Disease Community and using the platform of sports for social good. Brett proved to be an exceptional athlete as he transitioned from a top-rated quarterback in high school to a standout wide receiver at Penn State to a tight end in the NFL. A four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection for the Nittany Lions, Brackett graduated with a double major in Marketing and Economics. He was the President of the Penn State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes and was voted as a co-captain of the team his senior year.
On the field he played in 52 straight games and averaged 12.8 yards per catch with seven touchdowns. Undrafted out of college, he still made it to the NFL with stops in Miami, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Seattle before his playing career came to an end. Brett and his wife, Jamie, have a daughter Lia. Currently, Brett serves the Rare Disease Community as Uplifting Athletes Director of Sports Impact and General Manager.
Chapter Success Manager
Like many coaches’ kids, Levi does not consider one place home but currently resides in Waco, Texas. Levi is a former student-athlete at Baylor University where he played football and basketball. While at Baylor, he developed a relationship with a local high school student battling Cerebral Palsy and, in the Spring of 2014, founded the Baylor Uplifting Athletes Chapter. And in 2015, he was an Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award finalist.
On the football field at Baylor, Levi was a part of the winningest class in school history and helped Baylor win their first two Big 12 Conference Championships in 2013 & 2014. As the primary punt returner, he holds the school record in career punt return touchdowns (2) and as a receiver caught 128 passes for 11 touchdowns. He also has one career point for the Baylor University basketball team. Following Baylor, Levi spent a short time with the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers then returned to Baylor to receive his Masters in Sport Management. Levi joins the UA team after working in higher education at the University of New Mexico and most recently Baylor University.
A military brat who lived all over the world for three decades of his life, Andy came to Uplifting Athletes full-time in 2014 after 18 months working part-time. Prior to joining Uplifting Athletes he was a sportswriter for PennLive/The Patriot-News for more than 20 years covering high school football, golf, college recruiting and basketball. Andy is also an Army combat veteran, serving in the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment during Operation Desert Storm.
He has been married to Maureen for 25 years and has two grown children, Kaci and Brendan. Andy serves the Rare Disease Community by connecting his sportswriter background to developing communications aimed at fulfilling the mission of Uplifting Athletes.
Although John grew up in upstate New York, he considers State College, Pa. his home. John earned both an undergraduate and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Penn State University. He worked for more than two decades for a multi-national company with its World Headquarters in State College. He joined that organization in its relative infancy, and after leading the growth of the Sales and Marketing functions globally, retired from the organization in 2016. John was a member of the inaugural Executive Team at the organization.
Although not a collegiate athlete, John has always participated in sports and has a devotion to sports and what sports can offer any individual. Being able to maximize the benefit of sport to help others is a rewarding challenge that John has been dedicated to and actively engaged in with Uplifting Athletes since his retirement when he took on the role of Business Manager.
Scott is the founder of Uplifting Athletes and served the 30 million Americans that comprise the Rare Disease Community as the Executive Director from when he launched Uplifting Athletes as a national nonprofit in 2007 until December, 2018.
Uplifting Athletes was built on Scott’s rare disease journey that started in 2002 when his father, Don Shirley, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. When Scott’s Penn State football teammate, Damon Jones, learned of the challenges the Shirley family was enduring, he suggested that they do something since they were in a position to shine their spotlight on those who needed a voice.
The Penn State football team rallied around the idea of leveraging a summer strength and conditioning competition into a fundraising event called Lift For Life®.
After graduating from Penn State with a B.S. and Masters degree in Engineering, Scott held his “dream job” as a Project Engineer with Clark Construction Group in Washington D.C. He didn’t envision leaving that job so soon, but when Uplifting Athletes started to take off, Scott quit his job and started a full-service nonprofit.
Scott also founded a sports inspired for-profit company in 2015 called PledgeIt and is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) responsible for strategic planning, investor relations and daily operations.
The Central Pennsylvania native is married to Stephanie, has two children and in his spare time serves on the AmeriChoice Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, is a member of the Board of Directors at his church and is also a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit Management.
Keith is a graduate of Penn State University and has served as President of the Board of Directors since 2012. He helped guide Uplifting Athletes through an updated and innovative business model and business plan change in 2016 and, in 2018, provided key leadership during the Executive Director transition.
Keith is the Co-Founder of Mediabarn in Arlington, Virginia, a company that specializes in UX research, design, and staff augmentation. As CEO and Co-Founder, he has led Mediabarn through more than a decade of success. He has helped build the organization into an interactive powerhouse with a wide range of clients including government agencies, such as the U.S. Army, U.S. Patent Office and National Institute of Health (NIH), to some of the world’s most widely recognized media and education brands including: Discovery Communications, National Geographic, The Better Business Bureau, PBS, K12, and Pearson Education.
He started his interactive career at America Online, spending 10 years there during a significant period of growth from 1994 to 2004. Keith worked his way up to become the Executive Director of the Producer Team in the AOL Studio for more than two years. The Producer Team was responsible for project managing the user experience design and production of nearly all of the AOL properties, giving Keith wide exposure to all facets of creating and running interactive products.
Keith continues to stay plugged into his alma mater, assisting the College of Information Sciences and Technology as a speaker in project management and entrepreneurship. In his spare time Keith enjoys traveling, cooking, playing bass in a band and treats going out to dinner like an extreme sport.
Dave has served on the Uplifting Athletes Board of Directors since the organization was launched as a national non-profit in 2007. He was also instrumental in crafting the initial business plan for Uplifting Athletes with Founder Scott Shirley.
Early in 2019, Dave became a faculty member at the Penn State Bellisario College of Communications where he teaches courses in advertising. Prior to that he served as vice president of advertising and sponsorships for Lincoln Financial Group. During his 15-year tenure at Lincoln Financial, he was responsible for a wide array of initiatives that were designed to build a strong Lincoln Financial Group brand. Dave was also responsible for overseeing Lincoln’s long, successful partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the development of experiential programs as the naming rights partner for Lincoln Financial Field.
Dave served as Director of Advertising from 1998-2003 at the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa, spent 10 years at N.W. Ayer & Partners in Detroit, Michigan where he was the account director on the General Motors brand advertising program and was also the advertising manager at Barnett Banks of Florida, Inc.
He is an active member of the Financial Communications Society, the Association of National Advertisers, and serves on the executive committee for the Conference Board Council on Corporate Brand Management and Strategy.
A native of Harrisburg in Central Pennsylvania, Kerwin joined the Uplifting Athletes Board of Directors in 2012 and serves as Treasurer.
Kerwin is very involved as a servant to other community organizations in the greater Harrisburg area. Since 1999 he has been the Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors for Salt ‘N Light Youth Ministry, was on the Board of Directors for the West Shore Chamber of Commerce for more than a decade, including a two-year stint at Board Chair, and since 2016 has been Chairperson of the Board of the United Methodist Home for Children. He also served as Treasurer for his church for nearly 15 years and for the last six years has served on the Community Advisory Committee for a Continuing Care Community.
Since 2003, Kerwin has worked for Pyramid Construction, a commercial general contractor, serving as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Prior to joining Pyramid Construction, the Roanoke College graduate spent 14 years as a Vice President and Controller for another commercial general contractor; worked as a controller for two other Central Pennsylvania companies through most of the 1980s and started his career as a Senior Accountant with Price Waterhouse & Co. in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tiffini is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana and has served on the Board of Directors since 2015 in the role of Secretary and is a trusted advisor to help guide the organization when it comes to NCAA rules, regulations and compliance.
Currently she is the Associate Athletics Director and Chief Diversity Officer for the Alabama Crimson Tide. In this role, Tiffini is responsible for ensuring adherence to legislation governing the sport of football; the management, supervision and evaluation of the department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; as well as secondary sport oversight of the Men’s Basketball program.
Prior to her arrival at The University of Alabama, Tiffini was an Assistant Director within the Enforcement Football Development Group at the NCAA’s Indianapolis headquarters. Prior to joining the NCAA, Grimes was employed in athletics compliance at Penn State and Georgia Tech where she worked specifically with football in the areas of recruiting, amateurism, agents, and waivers of NCAA legislation.
A graduate of Purdue and Valparaiso University, Tiffini also uses her talents and expertise as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the Bella Mente Foundation.
Scott joined the Board of Directors in 2019 to provide leadership and guidance to grow the overall impact of Uplifting Athletes - particularly in the rare disease research space. The University of Colorado at Denver and University of Utah School of Medicine graduate has a strong and proven record of successful non-profit board service.
A resident of Seattle, Scott was elevated to his current position as Senior Vice President, Center for Rare Diseases at PRA Health Sciences in early 2018. Prior to that he spent four years as Vice President, Scientific Affairs - Rare Diseases for PRA Health Sciences where he was instrumental in creating the Center For Rare Diseases, a multidisciplinary business unit focused on innovative approaches to overcome the challenges of research in rare disease populations.
Before joining the PRA team in 2012, Scott spent four years with Cancer Research and Biostatistics (CRAB) as the Chief Operating Officer (COO), three years with MedSource as its Vice President, Strategic Business Development, two years as Director, Business Development for PRA International and from late 2000 until April of 2003 was the Clinical Operations Manager at Seattle Genetics, Inc.
Scott has previous non-profit Board of Directors experience with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Gage Academy of Art, Lawton Wood Community and Bike Works. He’s a member of DIA’s Rare Disease Program Committee and ISCTM’s Orphan Disease Working Group and has spoken at a plethora of professional conferences including World Orphan Drug Conference, National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and MassBio.
3-year starter and 2-time All-Academic place kicker at Maryland. Earned degrees in Finance and International Business. Founded Maryland chapter of Uplifting Athletes to support cystic fibrosis research. Earned MBA at University of Illinois and co-founded Illinois chapter to benefit acoustic neuroma. Currently an associate finance manager in brand development at Unilever and kicking instructer with Chris Sailer kicking.
After serving as vice president of Uplifting Athletes at Wisconsin, linebacker Chris Borland was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and recorded 108 tackles in 8 games in 2014. Retired from the NFL over concerns of the long term mental health effects of repetitive head trauma. With a strong interest in medical research, Chris is currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area while deciding on his post-NFL career.
Starting center and Uplifting Athletes chapter co-founder at St. Francis University. Jake served as vice president and helped organize the SFU Lift for Life and other events to support research for the rare disease apraxia. Currently an IT professional for Thermo Fisher Scientific in Boston, Massachusetts, where he plays rugby for Boston RFC in his spare time.
Co-founded St. Francis chapter of Uplifting Athletes, where he served as president and worked with his teammates to raise nearly $10,000 in first year to support children affected by apraxia. Currently resides in Northern Virginia where he works for a regional CPA firm, Kearney & Company, providing professional services to federal clients. An avid golfer.
A linebacker for the New York Giants, Mark overcame his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma while playing football at Boston College. The Honorary Chairman of Uplifting Athletes was the inspiration for the BC chapter and has held several fundraising events for the rare disease community.
A former Uplifting Athletes chapter president at team co-captain Penn State, Brett has played in the NFL since 2011 with six teams. The current Tennessee Titans TE was instrumental in forming the Letterman’s Club and continues to volunteer with Uplifting Athletes in the offseason.