Together WE ARE Stronger

Together WE ARE Stronger

In the fall of 2002, Penn State wide receiver, Scott Shirley, received a call that no one wants to hear. His dad, Don Shirley, had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. Because so few Americans had been diagnosed with that form of cancer, it had been classified as a rare disease and therefore did not benefit from the research and testing on patients that other, more common forms of cancer did. True to his Penn State roots, Scott Shirley set out to change that and make a difference, and with that, the idea for Uplifting Athletes was born. Penn State held its first annual Lift For Life event the following summer in the team’s weight room inside of the Lasch Building. Uplifting Athletes raised over 12k that day and Penn State football has continued the mid-summer event ever since.

This past Saturday, the Nittany Lions held their 14th annual Lift For Life on the Penn State lacrosse field. The event has raised well over $1-million dollars that goes directly towards research for rare diseases and has grown larger each year since its inception in 2003. Uplifting Athletes has also grown to over 30 Division-1 football program chapters and includes at least one team from every major conference. Schools such as Clemson, Nebraska, and Notre Dame have jumped on board fighting the good fight and each has adopted its own fundraising goals thanks to the tireless work and efforts of Scott Shirley and Uplifting Athletes.

Lift For Life pits the offense against the defense in a series of weight lifting events and is emceed by Steve Jones, voice of the Nittany Lions, and PJ Mullen, director of player development and community relations. This year’s event included the bench press, the overhead press, the farmers hold, and an obstacle course, as well as the tire flip and tug of war, both crowd favorites. During the event, the freshmen worked a kid’s clinic where little lions can try on the Nittany Lion costume, or a Penn State helmet and shoulder pads, while running drills with the newest batch of football players. After the event, the players signed autographs and held a very informal meet and greet with fans both young and old.


With just over three weeks left until training camp, Lift For Life not only presented an opportunity for the Penn State community to fight against a terrible disease, but it also gave us all a chance to get an up-close preview of the football squad as they head towards the upcoming season. It was an opportunity to meet up with friends and family as well as see the progress of the likes of Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, and others. It was a chance to lay eyes on the highly touted group of freshmen that just landed on campus a little over a month ago. For me personally, this was my second year as a volunteer at Lift For Life and I can tell you that I once again left with a huge sense of pride in being part of something so special associated with the Penn State football program. The numbers haven’t been announced yet as to how much was raised, but being there first hand, I know that we outdid ourselves once again.

The long five hour drive home to Richmond, Virginia gave me a lot of time to reflect on Saturday’s event. As I looked back on my two-day whirlwind of a trip back home to Happy Valley, a bracelet I bought from the Uplifting Athletes table kept speaking to me. In white letters on a blue background it simply read “Together We Are Stronger”. It struck me hard as I reminisced about the day, meeting up with good friends and watching my favorite team showcase themselves. I reflected on participating and doing my small part to fight the good fight while taking in the beauty of a place that I and so many others call our home away from home. It hasn’t been easy for us lately. Each week seems to bring news that aims to tarnish a reputation in which we all take tremendous pride. Just when we think the press has moved on to its latest witch-hunt, we pop up in their sights and are forced to defend ourselves once again. I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that haters will always hate. Those that continue to seek out the negative, will find it whether it’s there or not. Penn State has always been a great place and it continues to be despite the desperate efforts of some who have never set foot in State College. Lift For Life is just a small example but remains a shining beacon of light. Together, WE ARE STRONGER and I saw living proof of that with my own two eyes out on the Penn State lacrosse field on Saturday! Thank you to Scott Shirley and Uplifting Athletes for reminding us all what Success With Honor truly stands for.