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

Chapter Leader

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Cooper Dawson

Charleston Southern

Chapter Leader

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Michael Allen

Baylor

Chapter Leader

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Ryan Joyce

Ryan Joyce

Fordham

Chapter Leader

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Will Scissum

Will Scissum

Georgia Tech

Chapter Leader

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Dante Perri

Dante Perri

Lehigh

Chapter Leader

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Headshot of Boone Bonnema

Boone Bonnema

Western Michigan

Chapter Leader

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Staff
Headshot of Brett Brackett

Brett Brackett

President

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Karen Kirkpatrick

Karen Kirkpatrick

Accounting Manager

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Headshot of Robert Long

Robert M. Long

Executive Director

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Aimei Lund

Aimei Lund

Senior Manager, Rare Disease Impact

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Valaree Machen

Valaree Machen

Senior Manager, Integrated Marketing Communications

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Headshot of MaKaylie Peterkin

MaKaylie Peterkin

Uplifting Experiences Coordinator

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Andrea Pierson

Andrea Pierson

Chapter Success Manager

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Andrew P. Shay

Andrew P. Shay

Community Relationship Specialist

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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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Headshot of Nick Allegretti

Nick Allegretti

Board Member

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Scientific Advisory Council
David Eckstein Ph.D.

David Eckstein, PhD

NIH Office of the Clinical Research

Program Dir. for Strategic Partnerships & Policy Development

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Benjamin Forred

Benjamin Forred, MBA

Sanford Health

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

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Reena Kartha, PhD

Reena Kartha, PhD

University of Minnesota

Associate 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

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Maureen McArthur Hart Ph.D.

Maureen McArthur Hart, PhD

Creyon Bio

Director, Patient Advocacy, Policy, and External Engagement

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Scott Schliebner

Scott Schliebner

TFS Health Science

Senior Vice President, Clinical Development Services

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Headshot of Joshua Brandstadter

Joshua Brandstadter, MD, PhD, MSc

University of Pennsylvania

Director of Clinical Research, Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory Instructor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology

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Dr. Benjamin Chan

Benjamin Chan, PhD

Yale University

Associate Research Scientist

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Dr. Angela Waanders

Angela Waanders, MD

Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Director of Precision Medicine in Oncology

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Dr. Qinglan Ling

Qinglan Ling, PhD

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Postdoctoral Researcher

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