Meet Scott Shirley
In the fall of 2003, Scott Shirley was a senior on the Penn State football team. On his way home from practice one night, his mother called with some bad news – Scott’s father had been diagnosed with a rare disease and told he would be lucky to see Scott graduate. When he turned to his team for support, his roommate and teammate Damone Jones suggested that they take advantage of the position they were in as college football players and try to help make rare diseases more important. At that moment “Uplifting Athletes” was born. Although Scott’s father lost his personal battle with a rare disease, Uplifting Athletes has grown into a full service national nonprofit foundation serving a rare disease community of nearly 30 million Americans.
The mission of Uplifting Athletes is to align college football with rare diseases and raise them as a national priority through outreach, research, education and advocacy. A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans; typically lacking financial incentive to make and market new treatments. What makes Uplifting Athletes unique is that university chapters are run by current football players, giving them the ability to actively engage their teammates while gaining real-world job experience. Each chapter adopts one of nearly 7,000 different rare diseases (including ALS, MS, pancreatic cancer, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis) to make the cause relevant to their team. This coordinated effort across college campuses is producing leaders out of people in a position of social influence elevating the rare disease cause.
Chapters have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for rare disease research. At a recent event, a patient told Scott that she had been battling a rare disease her whole life, but that particular day was the first time she ever woke up feeling “lucky” because she knew that she was no longer alone in her fight.
Scott is currently the Chairman of the Board for Uplifting Athletes and became the full time Executive Director during the fall of 2007. He is responsible for the strategic planning of the national charter, providing leadership and vision for the organization, managing programs and operations, developing the Board of Directors and fundraising. In the interim, Shirley was a Project Engineer with Clark Construction Group. His projects included the Liberty Center (mixed use development that includes office, retail and living space), the Kennedy-Warren (luxury DC apartments) and the Women In Military Services for America Memorial. While at Clark, Shirley was elected to serve as a member of the Innovation Steering Committee to work with the executive management and foster a spirit of continuous improvement, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Creating and running a national nonprofit was not necessarily Scott’s plan, but he is glad to share the personal details of his journey through adversity with his inspirational story of motivation and leadership.
Interested in learning more? Visit Uplifting Athletes or contact Scott at Scott.Shirley@upliftingathletes.org.