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Maxwell Honor Reaffirms My Beliefs in Penn State Student-Athletes


2012 Penn State Senior Class

2012 Penn State Senior Class

Earlier this year, Friday July 13 to be exact, I witnessed what I always believed to be true. One day after the Freeh Report was released, this group of Penn State football players simply continued to go through life as they knew it.

Their spirit was contagious for the thousands of fans on hand for the annual Lift For Life event on the lacrosse field in the shadow of Beaver Stadium under the cloud of the Freeh Report and the impending NCAA sanctions.

And nearly five months later, standing at 8-4, this Penn State football senior class is being recognized for their courage and fortitude in the face of adversity by one of the leading football awards organizations in the country.

I’m very lucky in my role with Uplifting Athletes, I get to work with the good kids at every school. But they never cease to amaze me. And this group of Penn State seniors faced unparalleled challenges.

And to me, this group of Penn State seniors demonstrated that through all of this it was clear their priorities individually and collectively were never out of line. They chose to stay under a dark cloud that they had nothing to do with creating it. And the NCAA gave them the freedom to walk away.

Whether they stayed or left for another program, there were no guarantees under either situation. Only the negatives were guaranteed – no bowl game, no postseason, loss of scholarships and teammates transferring. It was up to them to create their own positives.

And by winning the Maxwell Football Club Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award in recognition of their commitment, leadership and outstanding effort this season, this group clearly demonstrated they were fully capable of not only navigating the unknown, but could also create their own positives at the same time.

What I knew to be true before November 5, 2011 when the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal broke, I believed it to be true after the Freeh Report was released in July and this Penn State senior class has proven it to be true today.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in News, Penn State, Uplifting Athletes

 

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Scott Shirley hopes Uplifting Athletes will help Nittany Nation begin healing process


By STEFANIE LOH, The Patriot-News

Scott Shirley looks on during Penn State's 9th annual Lift for Life held in Holuba Hall. Players form teams of four to compete in the 11 station event. The event is sponsored by Uplifting Athletes with all proceeds from the day going to kidney cancer research. Shirley founded Uplifting Athletes when he was a student at Penn State.

Scott Shirley looks on during Penn State's 9th annual Lift for Life held in Holuba Hall. Players form teams of four to compete in the 11 station event. The event is sponsored by Uplifting Athletes with all proceeds from the day going to kidney cancer research. Shirley founded Uplifting Athletes when he was a student at Penn State.

Fall 2011 was a difficult time for many Penn State alums, who watched in despair as the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal dominated the nation’s attention and sullied the university’s once pristine reputation.

But it was an especially trying time for former Nittany Lions wide receiver and Mechanicsburg native Scott Shirley, the founder and executive director of Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for rare disease research.

The parallels between his organization and the beleaguered The Second Mile — both nonprofits with significant ties to Penn State — were not lost on Shirley.

The Second Mile’s reputation took an irreparable hit when reports revealed that Sandusky had met many of his victims through the charity, and even as the organization tried to distance itself from Sandusky, Shirley worked tirelessly to ensure that his organization would not suffer any backlash simply by virtue of its Penn State origins.

In the days immediately following news of the scandal, Shirley consulted with public relations and crisis management experts and talked to attorneys he knew “just to get an understanding on how to operate in this environment.”

“Beyond that, communication was key,” Shirley said. “We communicated with our [Uplifting Athletes chapters] and the coaches of those teams to let them know that we would remain neutral [and not be] too quick to say, ‘We will have nothing to do with Penn State’ or to come out and stand behind them.

“Above all else, there had been no due process and I didn’t feel that it was proper for us to take a stand one way or another, and I wanted to ensure that people knew that.”

Uplifting Athletes chapters are student organizations run by college football players at each participating school. Each chapter adopts a rare disease as its cause, and players hold fundraising campaigns to raise awareness for their adopted disease.

Now, as the dust from the initial explosion begins to settle, it appears that Uplifting Athletes has weathered the storm well.

“I was worried, and I still am,” Shirley said. “But on the balance sheet at the end of the year, I think people have been able to separate the affiliation from our higher purpose.

“And it’s been an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at the magnitude of our efforts and realize that it’s truly greater than one institution, and that we’re serving a constituency of 30 million Americans who are affected by rare diseases.”

Count new Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien as one of those 30 million. O’Brien’s son, Jack, was born with lissencephaly, a rare genetic brain malformation.

Shirley says he has yet to meet O’Brien in person but that some of O’Brien’s former players have told him that the coach will likely be very supportive of Uplifting Athletes’ mission.

Shirley would like to continue the traditionally close relationship Uplifting Athletes has had with Penn State, where the flagship chapter was founded, and he’s hoping the organization’s inaugural Gridiron Gala this April will help Nittany Nation close some wounds.

The black-tie optional event to raise money for rare diseases will be held at The State Museum on April 20 and a host of former Penn State football players have been invited along with a list of former college football stars.

“I think it’ll be critical to our organization and may even contribute to the healing process for the local Penn State community,” Shirley said.

As Shirley pointed out, organizations like these are “a reason why people fell in love with Penn State to begin with.”

Read the original article in the Patriot News here.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in News, Penn State, Uplifting Athletes

 

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