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    Meet Your SAAC Rep: Wayne Crawford
    Wayne Crawford
    Wayne Crawford

    Oct. 19, 2011

    Raleigh, N.C. - Wayne Crawford, a fifth-year member of the NC State football team, earned his bachelor's degree last spring in business administration with a concentration in marketing. In order to be deemed eligible to compete on the football field this fall by the NCAA, Crawford had to be enrolled in 12 hours of coursework, even though he has already completed his undergraduate studies.

    On top of studying for his four classes and participating in hours of practice, Crawford is also the President of the NC State chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

    Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization that works with college football players to raise money for rare disease research. A disease is categorized as rare if it affects fewer that 200,000 Americans. Due to the low number of people affected, there is a lack of financial incentive to make and market new treatments. According to Crawford, "What it does is it aligns college football teams with rare diseases so that we can raise rare diseases as a priority."

    Today there are more than 7,000 rare diseases affecting 30 million Americans, and a lack of money in the medical industry to for the research and development of treatments and cures for these uncommon diseases. Each chapter of Uplifting Athletes focuses on raising money to put towards a rare disease of their choice.

    The non-profit began in 2003 at Penn State University, after a football player's father was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Since its inception, the Penn State football chapter has raised more than $500,000 to benefit kidney cancer. Eight other chapters have formed across the country, with the NC State organization being one of them.

    Crawford first heard about the non-profit in 2009, when the NC State football team gave money to Boston College's chapter for Ewing's sarcoma. Shortly after, NC State's offensive coordinator Dana Bible was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, another rare disease. "As soon as we found out that Coach Bible wasn't doing too well, we didn't have much of a way to help him. We were left at a point where we felt a little helpless, and that is where Uplifting Athletes came in," said Crawford.



    Scott Shirley, founder of Uplifting Athletes, came down and spoke to Crawford and a few of his teammates. "Right then I was like, it's something we should do," said Crawford. "This disease affected us, and we wanted to do something about it." So Crawford, along with teammates Mike Glennon and T.J. Graham, started the NC State chapter of Uplifting Athletes, benefiting leukemia.

    According to Crawford, Coach Bible was very fortunate to have one of the best leukemia treatment centers right down the street, but many others are not as lucky. "They're being given a window of how long they have to live but that's it. So what we're trying to do is have events and do things to bring money towards that. All our funds go to our specific rare disease research, it doesn't go to the Leukemia or Lymphoma Society; it goes specifically to research."

    The first event ever put on by the NC State chapter was a joint project with the chapters at the eight other schools. "It was a video game challenge at backyard bistro. What we did was, we used three TVs and had an NCAA college football tournament. We had a bunch of guys go head-to-head from our team, and then we went head-to-head with different players from other teams via X-BOX live," said Crawford.

    The next event that Uplifting Athletes will host will be Lift for Life in the spring. "This is the flagship event of any chapter," said Crawford. Lift for Life is an event where people pay an entrance fee to receive a poster and watch the football team in a weight-lifting competition. After the competition ends, viewers can get autographs of the players.

    The team also plans to host another video game challenge, and hopes that better marketing will make the second go-around more successful. "We put the video game challenge together in about three weeks with pretty much no marketing and people still came. I was pretty surprised that they came," said Crawford.

    Crawford emphasized that the organization doesn't plan to try and solicit donations all the time. "We're going to focus on having two to three fundraisers a year and the other events be more of a thank you to our supporters for doing this. If you want to donate, that`s great, but we won't ask. We'll be selling wristbands and stuff like that as well. Every little bit helps."

    Along with NC State and Penn State, Princeton, Ohio State, Boston College, Maryland, Colgate, Northwestern and Kent State have also started chapters of Uplifting Athletes. Princeton chose to raise money for aplastic anemia, Ohio State's chapter benefits Charcot-Marie Tooth Disease, Boston College chose Ewing's sarcoma, Maryland picked cystic fibrosis, Colgate's chapter benefits ependymoma, and Northwestern chose Neimann-Pick Type C, while Kent State has not yet decided.

    "Penn State has been doing their chapter for about 10 years. Scott Shirley's father had kidney cancer, a rare disease, and was given a few months. Since the start of that chapter, they've had new treatments found for kidney cancer research; the floodgates have opened. This is Shirley's job now, this is his non-profit that he runs. I want this to be something that lasts even when I'm gone. We wrote a charter for this; the plan is for the guys on the team to continue to run it after I'm graduated and Mike is graduated," said Crawford.

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