Lofty Goal for Lions' Lift for Life

Penn State's Eric Shrive and company looking to raise a record total at this year's charity event. The workout challenge begins at 5 p.m. Friday on campus.

At 6-foot-6, 314 pounds, Penn State football player Eric Shrive is a big man. And he has never been afraid to set big goals, especially when it comes to raising money for folks fighting kidney cancer.

In his first four years on campus, Shrive raised nearly $70,000 through Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes and the organization's signature annual event -- Lift for Life. He also rose up through the leadership ranks at PSU UA, serving as vice-president the last couple of years.

Given all he had done, it came as little surprise when Shrive was named Uplifting Athletes 2013 Rare Disease Champion, and honored at the Maxwell Club's Award Banquet in Atlantic City, N.J., in March. And it came as little surprise when Shrive was named president of the Penn State chapter of UA, following in the footsteps of successful departing senior Mike Farrell.

The eye-opening part was what Shrive said during the Penn State basketball's team's Feb. 27 home game against No. 4 Michigan. When a crew of Uplifting Athletes officers was introduced during a break in the action, Shrive took the mic and let people know that the 2013 Lift for Life Challenge would be held July 12 at the lacrosse field next to the school's Multi-sport Facility.

And then he announced that the football team's goal was to raise $300,000 this year via the strength and conditioning competition. The only thing more shocking that night was when the hoop team, mired in an 0-14 slump to start Big Ten play, knocked off the Wolverines.

When talking about Lift for Life later, Shrive gave an indication of why the lofty goal may have jumped out at people.

“We're looking to raise $300,000, which would more than double our total from last year,” he said. “The reason behind it is because I want to raise $1 million over 10 years. This would get us over the $1 million mark, and I think it would be something special to leave Penn State with and make an impact.”

Friday's event (which starts at 5 p.m.) will officially be the 11th year for Lift for Life, which was created by former Nittany Lion Scott Shirley and several teammates as a way to raise money and awareness for the fight against kidney cancer. But it is the 10th year for Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes. UA is the national organization, also started (and still run) by Shirley, that has spread to more than 15 other college football programs -- each focusing on its own rare disease.

The first Penn State LFL, held in 2003, raised $13,000. It has grown to the point where it raised $120,000 last year and more than $700,000 overall.

Asked if this year's goal might be a bit high, Shrive offered a pragmatic answer.

“They way I look at it is, if we don't get $300,000, and we raise $250,000, it's still more money going to the cause and it's a step in the right direction,” he said.

Shrive committed to Penn State in May of 2008, before his senior year at West Scranton (Pa.) High. That summer, he attended his first Lift for Life, doing so as a spectator (albeit a rather large one who found himself signing autographs along with the Nittany Lions). He was immediately smitten by the event.

“I was like, this is really cool, but the workout is rigorous,” he recalled. “It was something to really prepare for. I fell in love with it.”

When he arrived on campus in the summer of 2009, he joined the PSU chapter of Uplifting Athletes. And through the years, he worked his way up through the leadership ranks. Penn State UA is the largest student-athlete run philanthropy in the world -- with football players handling everything from business decisions to promotions to actually setting up (and tearing down) all of the equipment needed for LFL.

And as the national network has grown, leaders from the different chapters often communicate and even meet to learn from one another.

“Uplifting Athletes has taught me a lot through my four years at Penn State,” Shrive said. “It's a great organization. Scott Shirley is doing a great job. It's really helped me grow as a person and take me to the next level off the field.”

Shrive has gotten creative in his approach to fundraising. He relies heavily on the people back in the Coal Region, a fiercely loyal bunch. Also, has more than 2,500 Facebook friends and a quickly growing Twitter following (@75shrive). Most of his social media friends and followers are Penn State fans who are willing to pitch in when asked.

Shrive is the first to admit that being named the Rare Disease Champion said more about the PSU community than it did about anything he did. In his view, it also speaks to priorities at PSU, things that have been called into question over the past year and a half or so.

“It's a great honor,” Shrive said. “I think it's a true testament to Penn State and what Penn State means -- not only to perform well on Saturday, but to give back in the community.”

Lift for Life was overhauled under new Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald last year. It was moved from Holuba Hall to the outdoor lacrosse field, which allowed for better sightlines for fans. It was also changed from a competition where groups of four tried to post the best numbers to an overall offense vs. defense affair.

What changes might be in store for this year? Shrive smiled when he said, “It's too early to tell with Fitzy,” but then promised, “It's gonna be a fun event.”

As noted, the event kicks off at 5 p.m. There is plenty of parking in the huge lot right next to the Multi-sport Facility. A small donation is requested for entry, with all funds going to the cause. And the popular official “Iron Lion” T-shirts will be on sale.

“We're looking for everyone to come out and support us in any way possible,” Shrive said. “And you can donate at upliftingathletes.org.”

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