June 9, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Sometimes it’s little things that add up to make a big difference.
On Friday morning, the entire Georgia Tech Football Team will do its small part to make a big difference in fighting for the “rare diseases” community.
All they’ll need to do is lift weights.
This workout has been turned into an event called the Inaugural Lift For Life and the team is part of a larger on-campus group of athletes that goes by the Georgia Tech Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. Starting time is 6 a.m. on Friday.
“It’ll be a closed event and will just be a normal workout,” said redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trey Klock, the driving force behind the Georgia Tech’s involvement. “It’s going to be all competitions. We’ll have a bunch of different stuff — tug of war, tire flips, prowler (push), obstacle course, and intense conditioning. I’s going to be a really tough workout. That’s really what the fans would be donating to. To help a great cause, to support Georgia Tech Football, knowing that we’re going through this workout.”
Uplifting Athletes, which also holds events like 5K road races and other events, traces its origins to Penn State back in 2003. The catalyst for that first event was then-Nittany Lions senior wide receiver and baseball team catcher Scott Shirley. Shirley’s father, Don, had succumbed to a rare form of kidney cancer after a valiant six-month battle with the disease, which it appeared he’d beaten 10 years earlier. This form of cancer was so rare that doctors had no definitive course of treatment.
Shirley took the loss hard and came out fighting — lifting, actually.
With his PSU teammates by his side, they started the first Lift For Life fundraiser. Lift For Life has caught on and now there are 24 participating programs on college campuses spanning the county. Every summer these football programs hold a Lift For Life event — each one choosing a “rare disease” to fight — then pool their money according to the type of rare disease and make one large donation to the cause.
The Jackets will be putting their efforts toward battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and have set a goal of $5,000. Fans can donate by going to the Lift For Life donation page and making a flat donation to the position of his or her choice.
“It’s split up by position so you can make a general donation or you can say, `I want to support the defensive backs’ or `I want to support the running backs,'” Klock said. “But it’s not anything with the competition. The competition is just through us and then just to see who can compete and get through the workout. It’s nothing like a 225-rep test or anything. We have a lot of ideas for the upcoming years. “
On Wednesday, the Jackets reached their goal of $5,000 and continued to push forward.
“We looked at what some of the other schools have done, and living in Atlanta, with the great Georgia Tech fan base, we just felt that that was definitely a number that we could reach,” he said.
Klock, a Hummelstown, Pa., native, who knows Shirley, had plenty of motivation to form Uplifting Athletes. He was devastated by the loss of both his younger brother, Kyle, who died from Tay-Sachs Disease when he was only 3, and, two years ago, his uncle, Tom Kirchhoff, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, who was taken by ALS.
“I’ve had two people that are very close to me that have been affected by rare diseases,” Klock said. “I wanted to do anything possible to be able to raise money for the rare disease community and be able to do something for my family.”
With Head Coach Paul Johnson, his entire staff, and all of his teammates also determined to help, Klock went to work and organized the GT Chapter and Lift For Life. Through the ingenuity of Director of Player Development John Sisk, the Yellow Jackets have their workout set for Friday.
While this inaugural Lift For Life will be closed, Klock said there will be video shot and pictures that will be posted on social media in the days following.
He expects viewers to see a lot of pride and some spirited competition.
“Everybody on the team wants to win, everybody wants to compete,” he said. “No one could hang at this level if he didn’t have that drive in him every day to want to be great. Now, with the added benefit of supporting the rare disease community, spreading awareness and research funds, I think the guys are really going to go at it. Coach Johnson and Coach Sisk have made sure the competition isn’t going to be anything that’s unsafe and we’re really going to work hard and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Klock sees a big future for Lift For Life and Uplifting Athletes and has already gotten plenty of support from fellow Tech student-athletes.
“We have a lot of help from the other sports,” he said. “We have a lot of ideas. At the Spring Game next year we want to have a tent put up outside and have other athletes out there, something to notice. At the tailgate before games, having other athletes go around. At the SAAB (Student-Athlete Advisory Board) meetings we’ll have other people. We’re going to promote this to all the other sports and get their help.
“This is something that we want to keep going for years,” he added. “I still have three years left here at Georgia Tech and I’d really love to be able to pass it down to somebody else and see it really take off.”