By: Lily Blum – Media Relations Student Assistant – umdterps.com
Being a student-athlete gives those lucky enough to represent their university a platform to discuss important issues, especially those that sometimes don’t always get the attention they deserve or need.
Uplifting Athletes gives student-athletes that much needed platform to help their communities. This non-profit, student-athlete run organization aims to help children affected by rare diseases through the power of sport. Currently, there are 25 Uplifting Athletes chapters at colleges and universities throughout the country.
The University of Maryland football team joined Uplifting Athletes in 2009 in honor of former Terp great Boomer Esiason. His son, Gunner, lives with cystic fibrosis, a rare disease that attacks the lungs. His daily uphill battle served as the inspiration for Maryland to become involved with Uplifting Athletes.
Senior kicker Adam Greene serves as the chapter President and looks to continuously get his teammates involved. Under the guidance of Greene, team participation is at an all-time high.
“We try to use our platform, as college athletes, to provide hope and inspiration to the rare disease community,” explained Greene. “We realize that children facing rare diseases don’t have the same platform that college athletes have.”
There are over 7,000 rare diseases effecting 30 million Americans, yet each lacks the financial incentive to make and market new treatments.
Greene was heavily involved in Special Olympics and Adaptive Athletics during his time at Broadneck Senior High School. When the chance to become involved in Uplifting Athletes presented itself, it was easy for Greene to jump at the opportunity to begin making an impact in the community while in college.
“We have great resources in our program to make a major impact,” said Greene. “Our coaches fully support and encourage our efforts and with so many guys on the team willing to help, we are starting to make a major difference.”
In order to get his teammates even more involved in Uplifting Athletes this year, Greene decided to spend parts of his winter break creating a 27-page booklet outlining every detail of the University of Maryland Uplifting Athletes chapter.
“After each year the seniors would graduate and the people replacing them as leaders would have to start off from square one,” explained Greene. “I thought that was a main reason why we couldn’t grow because information would get lost and make everything more difficult over the years.”
After Greene created the outline of the program, a chosen leader representing each position group formed a committee that led Maryland’s Uplifting Athletes chapter. This tactic increased the involvement drastically. However, Greene knew the most effective way to increase involvement would be for his teammates to interact with the kids that their efforts would be helping.
“When we went to Rare Disease Day back in February, we were able to have 40 players and coaches come to the NIH’s Clinical Center to visit the kids,” said Greene. “Everybody wrote letters and brought mini Maryland helmets to give to the children. It was incredible to see the impact on our teammates and the patients we met.”
The team is gearing up for their annual “Lift for Life” event on June 23rd, the marquee event of the Uplifting Athletes program. The players will compete as position groups while completing a series of strength and team building workout stations throughout Maryland Stadium. Each position group is aiming to raise over $1,000 for a team goal of $12,000. The money raised will directly fund medial research grants, life skills development and patient-focus programs for children diagnosed with rare diseases.
“We are excited to challenge ourselves through competition to help raise money towards finding cures for children like the ones we met,” said Greene. “Our team is really buying in to our cause and I’m excited to see the impact we can make as a whole.”