Uplifting experience: USC football players work out, raise money to battle rare disease

jkendall@thestate.comJune 26, 2014 

South Carolina’s football players got a break from their summer routine and a chance to raise money for a good cause Thursday.

The Gamecocks held their second Lift for Life, a fundraiser put on by their chapter of Uplifting Athletes, to raise money for the rare disease Pelizaeus Merzbacher, which affects the brain and spinal cord.

“Everybody won in the end,” said South Carolina defensive end Devin Washington, who along with fullbacks Connor McLaurin and Jordan Diaz, leads the Gamecocks’ Uplifting Athletes group.

South Carolina’s chapter, the only such chapter in the SEC, hoped to raise $5,000 for its cause with Thursday’s event, but the tally was not immediately available.

“Hopefully, we will reach that,” McLaurin said. “Folks can donate throughout the rest of the year.”

Uplifting Athletes, which accepts donations through upliftingathletes.org, started in 2003 and has 22 chapters nationwide, including at Florida State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska. Each chapter selects a rare disease as its beneficiary. A rare disease is defined as one affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans per year and, thus, unlikely to receive major research funding.

“I hope it follows throughout the rest of the SEC,” Diaz said. “Everybody should be doing it.”

South Carolina’s players – broken into teams led by offensive lineman A.J. Cann, wide receiver Nick Jones, defensive tackle Gerald Dixon, safety Brison Williams, linebacker Kaiwan Lewis, offensive lineman Corey Robinson, spur Sharrod Golightly, tailback Mike Davis and offensive lineman Brandon Shell – competed in strength and conditioning stations during Thursday’s event. (Dylan Thompson and Davis were not in attendance. Thompson left the country Thursday for a mission trip in Israel.)

“We like to add variety to everything we do to change things up for the guys so they don’t get into that monotonous (grind),” strength coach Joe Connolly said. “They look forward to it. They have been talking about it all week. Jordan, Connor and Devin have done a tremendous job putting it together.”

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