UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State offensive lineman Eric Shrive is proud to be the 2013 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.
In Shrives four years with Penn States Uplifting Athletes chapter, he has raised nearly $70,000 for kidney cancer patients and research.
Each year, a college football player is given the award based on his contributions to the rare disease community. Shrive, one of seven finalists, was announced as the champion on Feb 1.
He will receive the Rare Disease Champion Sculpture at the Maxwell Football Clubs Awards Gala on March 1 in Atlantic City, N.J. On March 2 he will be recognized at the Uplifting Athletes Gridiron Gala in Harrisburg.
It was a great honor to win the Rare Disease Champion award, said the redshirt junior from West Scranton. But, like I said in the past, I dont do this for the recognition. The people with kidney cancer who I was able to help are the real winners. I think its something special what were doing here and I think more people need to find out about it.
Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for rare diseases.
Former Penn State wide receiver Scott Shirley and his teammates began their efforts in 2003 when Shirleys father was diagnosed with kidney cancer, a rare disease that lacked funding for research to find a cure. At the time, the Shirleys sought a number of medical opinions; all gave the same answer: Go home and enjoy the time that you have.
Shirley and his teammates consequently founded Lift for Life, a power-lifting and skills competition that is now held every summer at Penn State to raise funds and awareness for kidney cancer.
The program has had continued success, causing Shirley to create Uplifting Athletes as a way for college football players around the country to have similar experiences with the rare disease community. By this spring, there will be chapters at 20 different universities.
Now executive director and chairman of the board for Uplifting Athletes, Shirley said he is impressed with Shrives efforts.
I think whats cool about Eric is that Lift for Life and Uplifting Athletes has been a part of his Penn State experience literally from the day he committed, Shirley said. When he arrived on campus, he came with a lot of fanfare. He jumped in with both feet as an incoming freshman and raised a good amount of money and has raised the bar for himself every year.
Shrive became involved during his freshman year when former Penn State wide receiver and chapter president Brett Brackett persuaded him to join.
In his sophomore and junior years, Shrive served as chapter vice president under fellow offensive lineman and president Mike Farrell.
In the summer of 2011, Shrives efforts became personal when his uncle was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
I saw the struggles that he went through because it wasnt one of the prominent cancers, said Shrive. Thats why I feel that what were doing for kidney cancer is really special.
Farrell said he believes this personal connection to the disease motivated Shrive to work even harder. I think it has driven him, he said.
According to Penn State Athletics, Shrive raised $69,500 for Lift for Life in his four summers on campus, with approximately $32,000 of that amount in 2012.
Shrive was recently elected president of the Penn State chapter.
Hes the right person to not only maintain the success of this chapter but improve on it, Farrell said.
Lift for Life will take place this year on July 12.
Shrive said he is happy that he can both help the community and fight for a cause he holds dear.
In the position Im in as a Penn State football player, I should be giving back to the community, he said, and I try to give back as much as I can.
Tickets for the March 2 Uplifting Athletes Gridiron Gala in Harrisburg can be purchased online at www.upliftingathletes.org/gridirongala.
Jon Blauvelt is a Penn State journalism student.