Since the first Lift For Life in 2003, student-athletes on the Penn State football team have come together to support the rare disease community through the organization that came to be known as Uplifting Athletes.
Under the guidance of current chapter president Ben Kline and his leadership team, Penn State Uplifting Athletes raised a record $151,990 this year for kidney cancer research.
Thanks to the ongoing support of the Penn State community for a dozen years, the PSU chapter has now raised more than $1 million. Penn State is the first Uplifting Athletes chapter to reach this milestone.
This is a day that I've looked forward to for a long time, said Penn State chapter founder and Uplifting Athletes executive director Scott Shirley. Every year we got a little bit closer, and this milestone seemed to be within reach.
To me this is a test of time, and it wasn't a one-hit wonder. The organization just continued to grow year after year.
As the single largest donor to the Kidney Cancer Association, the funds raised from the Penn State chapter have helped bring seven new treatments to market in the last 12 years.
And what started at Penn State has sparked a movement that is growing nationwide, as 24 other college football programs have formed Uplifting Athletes Chapters -- including half the Big Ten, ACC and at least one chapter in each major FBS conference.
Reaching this milestone is certainly worthy of recognition, but the fight against this rare disease continues.
The Penn State chapter leadership team is already focused on making fiscal year 2015 another record fundraising year.
To kick off that effort, the Penn State Chapter will run a Touchdown Pledge Drive, sponsored by AAA, for all five Nittany Lion games during November.
For the games at Beaver Stadium against Maryland, Temple and Michigan State, along with road games at Indiana and Illinois, the Penn State chapter will turn each touchdown into kidney cancer research dollars.
Nittany Lions fans can support this month-long fundraising campaign by visiting the Penn State chapter fundraising page and make a pledge for each Nittany Lions touchdown scored in November.
Penn State isn't the only Uplifting Athletes chapter doing a Touchdown Pledge Drive this fall. This new in-season fundraising event is also happening at plenty of other chapters.
It helps the chapter evolve into a year-round operation because it's so difficult for them during the season to do much, Shirley said. But that's when they are most relevant. This is a great tool for them to take advantage of that and it doesn't require a lot of their time.
Each of the Uplifting chapters doing a Touchdown Pledge Drive will be using performance based fundraising software called Pldgit.
This fully automated online software is interactive for the donor and creates a fan friendly experience.
This software company was founded by Shirley in 2012 and was launched by former Penn State and current Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still.
When Still was told his daughter Leah had neuroblastoma (a rare disease) over the summer, the former PSU All-American wanted to help other families in a similar situation.
So he reached out to Shirley and was fully supportive of doing a Pldgit campaign where all the money raised from each Bengals sack this season is split between Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Philadelphia Children's Hospital.
It's done wonders for me. It's done wonders for my daughter, Still said. Everybody's keeping my daughters spirits up. I definitely appreciate all of the attention she's getting. She's a fighter.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers is doing a season-long campaign for each passing yard and Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is running a campaign for each hit in the World Series.
Along with Still and these two major campaigns, and each Uplifting Athletes chapter Touchdown Pledge Drive, the Pldgit software company is off and running.
It's been very rewarding to me to continue to empower athletes to make an impact, Shirley said. As they graduate from college, Pldgit gives us an ability to support their personable charitable efforts at the next level, whatever that level might be.
Jesse James at the 2014 Lift For Life Challenge, which helped PSU UA to a record fundraising total this year.