STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -The Penn State Nittany Lions' workout schedule Friday includes lifting weights and pull-ups, followed by an odd assortment of drills like pulling sleds and pushing around giant tractor-trailer tires in front of hundreds of fans.
The routine feels just as grueling as it sounds, receiver Brett Brackett said.
All for charity, though.
What started as a weightlifting event six years ago to raise money at Penn State for kidney cancer research has turned into a full-fledged philanthropic organization called ``Uplifting Athletes'' involving other football programs dedicated to fighting rare diseases.
``It's a grueling workout in general,'' said Brackett, head of Penn State's chapter. ``The thing that makes it worthwhile is it's for charity, and the fans really seem to enjoy it.''
are now located at Maryland, Colgate, Boston College and even at Big Ten football rival Ohio State. Organizers say more chapters are in the works.
The BC chapter started shortly after senior Mark Herzlich, the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year and one of the nation's top linebackers, learned in May that he had Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer found in bone or soft tissue.
With Brackett's assistance, Eagles receiver Ryan Lindsey quickly helped organize BC's inaugural lifting competition, scheduled for July 30.
``Everyone is just pulling for our teammate,'' Lindsey said in a phone interview.
The organization took root in 2003 after Scott Shirley, then a Penn State player, and his family visited numerous doctors in an effort to treat his father's kidney cancer. Shirley said they learned little could be done because it was a ``rare disease'' - kidney cancer affects less than 200,000 Americans, providing little financial incentive for research.
He shared that news with then-roommate and teammate Damone Jones.
``Damone just shrugged his shoulders, 'Why don't we do something about it?''' Shirley recounted in a phone interview. ``Take advantage of the position that we're in.''
The ``Lift for Life'' challenge was born. Shirley's father died in 2005, though the event went on.
ime success in Happy Valley, though by 2006, Shirley and other organizers began to seriously explore expanding it to other campuses.
With the help of Dave Wozniak, a Penn State alum who works as a vice president for Lincoln Financial Group, what had been a Penn State-only organization became ``Uplifting Athletes.'' Now 28, Shirley quit his job as an engineer in Washington and moved back to the Harrisburg, Pa., area two years ago to become executive director.
``You work on it for as many hours as you can stay awake,'' he said.
Each school's chapter is run by the players, and not the coaches or school. Each team chooses its own cause for which to raise money, typically based on a personal experience of a player or coach.
Colgate started its challenge last year to benefit Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a defect to connective tissue that supports skin, muscle and ligaments.
Ohio State and Maryland don't lift, but have video game challenges among players for charity. More chapters are in the works, Shirley said.
At Penn State, players have raised about $300,000 over the first six years. The lifting competition comes at a natural point in offseason workouts, when players transition from strength training to conditioning drills to prepare for preseason practice in August.
mer workout,'' Shirley said. ``We always just say the stakes are a little higher.''

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