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Random TXTs of Kindness


During the Spring of my junior year at Penn State, the world taught me a harsh lesson about life, relationships and faith. Eric Dare was one of my first friends in college. We had very similar values. Our families always came first, we were respected by our peers for our work ethic and we developed meaningful relationships with our teammates.

Our football team was ranked #1 in Sports Illustrated’s preseason poll and we won our first eight games of the season. Minnesota derailed our plans for a national championship with a Hail Mary pass and a last second field goal. It was like having the wind knocked out of us. I personally feel that our team was so intent on winning the BCS title that once it became out of reach, nothing else mattered. There was no talk about winning the Big Ten or the Rose Bowl.  Both of which were still possible until we lost to Michigan and Michigan State in subsequent weeks…resulting in an invitation to the Alamo Bowl.

Eric thought it would be a idea for a group of us freshman to drive his family’s RV 26 hours from State College, PA, to San Antonio, TX.  This was a great opportunity for us to regroup and bond with each other.  We ended up beating Texas A&M in their back yard, but the memory that I’ve held onto is the friendship I developed with Eric’s younger brother Kevin.

That summer, I moved in with Eric and Kevin. We worked together, worked out together and spent quality time with his parents and grandparents. Kevin started school at Penn State the following year and competed in the pole vault on the track team. He was a natural athlete and one of the best at his craft.

His life ended tragically at the Big Ten indoor championship meet when he landed head first in “the box.” I called Eric immediately and to my surprise, he answered. From that day on, I’ve never hesitated — or regretted — reaching out to someone at a time of need.

This was really my first experience with death. I learned that you will never feel guilty going to a funeral (even if you ONLY knew the deceased) and that the grieving process usually begins after everyone else is gone…so make sure to offer your support in the weeks following the wake.

But it was reading the hundreds, if not thousands, of fond memories from people who dearly loved Kevin that it struck me: Wouldn’t it have been nice for Kevin to hear these things?

Now, this question opens up an entirely different spiritual debate (which I have not completely resolved for myself yet), but why did everyone wait until it was too late? Every day of this conscious life is a gift, even if it’s only but a moment of our eternity.  I decided then to make the most of it and I started by letting my loved ones how much I cared about them.  (It doesn’t hurt to look a stranger in the eyes and smile either.)

Since then I’ve adopted a personal philosophy to share “random TXTs of kindness.”  Every time I have a thought about a friend that brings a smile to my face…I let them know.  It’s as simple as “thinking about you” or a funny story that usually starts with “remember when…” Either way, it rarely takes more than 140 characters to make someone else’s day a little brighter. It’s also a nice reminder of my friendship with Kevin.  Who knows, it might just be his way of letting me know he’s thinking about me, too.

Eric and I are still good friends.  He helps with my effort to eradicate rare diseases through Uplifting Athletes and I have helped his family’s mission to improve safety in the sport of pole vaulting. To learn more, please visit www.kevindare.com.

 

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Uplifting Athletes

 

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In Memory of Joe Paterno


Joe Paterno was an honorary chair of the Uplifting Athletes Capital Campaign.  This is the transcript to the speech I presented at the Joe Paterno Memorial Service held on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in Harrisburg. You can watch a replay of the service here (my remarks begin with 30 minutes remaining in the broadcast).

To learn more on my perspectives about life, you can read my words of remembrance about Coach Daniels in an earlier blog postJoe Daniels, a former assistant at Ohio State, was also a campaign chair.  

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Good afternoon.  It is humbling to stand before you today.  I would like to personally thank the Paterno family for graciously allowing all of us to share in the grieving process.  YOU are a first-class institution.

Everyone here today has a relationship with Coach Paterno.  Some of you are family.  Others are friends…perhaps former players…colleagues or fellow parishioners.  Many of you are fans and a lucky few may have even taken a picture with him.  But whether or not you ever met him does not necessarily define YOUR relationship with Joe Paterno…in my opinion, the best measure of your relationship is how he’s influenced YOU to live YOUR life.

While I was a member of the Penn State football team, my father was diagnosed with a rare disease.  Upon learning that little could be done because of a lack of public interest, my family embarked on a journey to find a cure. It was at that time that my teammates rallied around us to start the “Lift For Life.”  This effort has since evolved into a full-service…national…nonprofit called Uplifting Athletes that works with college football players to raise money for rare disease research.  THIS is a direct product of Joe’s GRAND EXPERIMENT, which he started in 1966 to prove that you would win in the classroom AND on the football field.

In fact, I choose Penn State because they were the only school that told me I could major in engineering and compete for a national championship.  But it’s because Joe’s standards were uncompromised….and the Penn State football program has been built on integrity…that I found myself in a locker room surrounded by like-minded athletes who could respond to adversity in such a positive way.  Not to mention a program with a coaching staff and administration that trusted us to pursue this greater purpose.

At this time, I’d like to ask any former players that are with us today to please stand.

Thank you.

Anyone who would like to learn more about the Grand Experiment, please find one of these gentlemen and ask them to share their story.  We all have one!

It’s hard sometimes for the rest of the world to understand that Joe was more than a football coach or that his legacy is more than his 409 wins.  I believe it was Aristotle who once said, “where your talents meet the needs of the world, therein lies your calling.”  Joe didn’t have to be a teacher to educate young men nor did he have to start a nonprofit to serve his community.  By using his natural talents to the best of his ability…he has made the world a better place.

“Success With Honor” is often referred to in the media as a “motto” or a “slogan.” My goal is to prove that it’s a way of life…And in his memory…I’d like to ask all of you to join me in accepting this challenge.

Thank you, Coach.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in In Memory

 

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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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