George Hatalowich ’20
Across the entire country, collegiate football programs and their players are constantly being judged and defined by preconceived notions and negative stigmas surrounding their character, intellect, and social impact.
Personally, as a former football player at Davidson, I have heard a collection of negative comments surrounding these ideas and beliefs.
But what if I said that our team at Davidson will not let these notions define us? Nor will we be just a team of individuals who share the common denominator of football.
Rather, we desire to make a difference in the community and world around us. We aim to be bigger than the scores and records we set in simple games played on Saturdays. We are determined to be bigger than the game of football. This is exactly what we are striving to do through our Uplifting Athletes Chapter.
With such a strong philanthropic presence at Davidson, we believe that our chapter can continue to grow with support from the student body and community in order to heighten the spotlight and impact on rare diseases.
Furthermore, with approximately 7,000 rare diseases that are often chronic, progessive, degenerative, and life-threatening, I believe that we, as a Davidson community, can and will make a difference.
Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of sport, in particular collegiate football, to raise money and awareness for the rare disease community.
The organization is built on the collection of more than 25 Division 1 programs throughout the country, from the football giants like Clemson and Penn State to smaller schools like Davidson and Princeton.
Since the organization was founded in 2007, Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $4.5 million in support of the rare disease community and in just 2019 alone, the collegiate chapters collectively raised over $200,000 through different fundraising initiatives, such as Lift for Life and Touchdown Pledge Drive.
Davidson’s chapter originated in the spring of 2018, after myself and Kevin Stipe ’20 attended the Uplifting Athletes leadership conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
We brought the idea and goal of developing a chapter to our teammates, coaches, strength staff, and athletic department.
Immediately following our presentations, everyone was on board and eager to see where we could take this opportunity.
Within the first couple of weeks of the 2018 spring semester, our chapter was up and running as a student-led organization with our first ever annual Lift for Life event scheduled in April.
The event is exactly as it sounds: a weight lifting competition. But what makes this fundraiser special is that it is unique to every program’s chapter.
At Davidson, our Lift for Life event features the 225 bench press. For those who don’t have much familiarity with football training, the 225 bench press is a lift that’s commonly used to evaluate a football player’s overall strength and muscular endurance.
Every year during the NFL combine, this is one of the top evaluation techniques for professional scouts and teams. The goal of the lift is for a player to complete as many reps as possible until failure.
For our Lift For Life, we divide into seven teams with an equal mix of all positions and have the teams average out their number of reps.
Next, players begin campaigning for the event which combines two important facets: the first being through educating fans, alumni, family, and friends about rare diseases and the effect this fundraiser can have on this community, and secondly, through asking people to pledge money towards their team’s average bench press number or a flat donation.
This fundraiser serves as an opportunity for players to compete for personal goals in the 225 bench press; but more importantly, it serves as an opportunity to raise money and spread awareness to everyone we contact.
In Davidson’s 2018 and 2019 Lift For Life, the chapter raised nearly $25,000 dollars, with both years topping over $12,000. To put the success of Davidson’s chapter into perspective, no other team outside of Penn State and Notre Dame have continuously raised over $12,000 dollars in their first two Lift For Life events.
I think Davidson is a little different from Penn State and Notre Dame in regards to our fan base and overall national outreach. But it simply goes to show how much our team takes pride in being something bigger than football.
Outside of the Lift For Life, another fundraising opportunity the organization and our chapter has embraced is the Touchdown Pledge Drive.
For this fundraiser, our chapter and chapters across the country reach out to fans, alumni, family, and friends to pledge money on the amount of touchdowns each team will score throughout a given month.
In the past two years, Davidson’s Touchdown Pledge Drives have been able to raise over $2,000.
Again, our objective for the fundraiser is to not only raise money but also spread awareness on campus and throughout the community.
We firmly believe that as our exposure grows as a chapter, the awareness and money raised will continue to grow as well.
As my time serving as president of Davidson’s chapter comes to a close with graduation approaching, I’m extremely proud of the strides we have made thus far, but I know that it’s just the beginning.
I firmly believe that our chapter will continue to serve as a major component of Uplifting Athletes, as well as an example for other programs that want to develop its own chapter.
Moving forward, we want our chapter to become rooted in the philanthropic culture at Davidson College.
One of our future goals is to make the Lift for Life a public event where the student body and community can watch and support.
We believe this would be a great way to share this experience and event with everyone and, at the same time, continue to spread awareness about rare diseases.
George Hatalowich ’20 is an economics major from Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.