Our Past, Present & Future
Our effort started in 2003 when a Penn State football player’s father was diagnosed with kidney cancer and his family learned that little could be done because it was a rare disease – meaning it affected fewer than 200,000 Americans and lacked financial incentive to make and market new treatments. When a teammate learned of their misfortune, he suggested that they do something since they were in a position to make a difference. The team rallied around the idea of leveraging a summer strength and conditioning competition into a fund raising event called Lift For Life® by opening it up to their fans and the media. They soon realized that the benefits of this new organization were far greater than they had imagined.
The football student-athletes who were involved with leading this effort essentially created internship experiences for themselves by reaching out to industry professional mentors. The benefits of off campus summer internships are well documented but are often void from the college experience of football student-athletes due to their year round commitment to the sport. They also realized that their teammates were actively engaged because this was something the team had ownership over, not a community service project that was planned by someone else. Finally, they learned that kidney cancer was one of more than 7,000 rare diseases (such as cystic fibrosis, Hodgkins disease or charcot-marie-tooth disease), affecting more than 30-million Americans and that they were making a big difference.
Since 2003, the Penn State Football chapter has raised more than $800,000 to benefit kidney cancer; its events have attracted thousands of fans and media and connected patients from across the country. Six new treatments have been brought to market during this time, compared with only one in the previous 12 years.