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Rob Young hosting the Young Investigator Draft in 2023. Photo submitted.

On February 3rd, 2024, Philadelphia will witness a unique draft – not for athletes, but for the brightest minds in rare disease research.

Uplifting Athletes, a 501(c)(3) organization harnessing the power of sports to invest in the lives of people impacted by rare diseases, will host its annual Young Investigator Draft.

This NFL-style event will award ten promising early-career researchers with $20,000 grants each, marking a momentous milestone for the organization: surpassing $1 million in research funding through this innovative initiative.

Rob Long and his wife Irie. Photo submitted.

The Young Investigator Draft isn't just a funding mechanism; it's a bold statement. It elevates the fight against rare diseases to a national stage, showcasing the dedication of researchers tackling these often-overlooked conditions.

Each grant awarded represents not just financial support, but a powerful vote of confidence in the potential of these emerging scientists to make a real difference.

This year's draft is particularly significant. With the $1 million milestone in sight, it signifies a growing momentum in the fight against rare diseases.

Uplifting Athletes has become a beacon of hope for patients, families, and researchers alike, demonstrating the transformative impact that sports can have on the medical landscape.

Uplifting Athletes’ Executive Director, Rob Long, is no stranger to the connection between sports and rare diseases. Long is a graduate from Downingtown West High School and played collegiate football at Syracuse University.

Rob Long speaks at last year's event. Photo submitted.

Late in his senior season, Rob was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.

While the cancer did eradicate Long’s plans for the NFL, he didn’t let it stop him from using sports to make a positive impact in the world.

Long's story is one of hope, a reminder that even in the face of adversity, the human spirit can soar. He traded his touchdowns for triumphs of a different kind, proving that courage and compassion can be just as powerful as athletic prowess.

By highlighting the achievements of these emerging researchers, Uplifting Athletes amplifies the voices of the rare disease community. The draft offers a platform to share their stories, raise awareness, and galvanize support for ongoing research efforts.

The Young Investigator Draft is not just a one-day event; it's a catalyst for change. The grants awarded will fuel groundbreaking research, leading to potential breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatment, and even cures for rare diseases.

Each recipient becomes a champion for their respective field, paving the way for a brighter future for countless patients.

At its core, the Young Investigator Draft is a testament to the power of collaboration. It brings together athletes, researchers, donors, and the public in a shared mission to conquer rare diseases.

It's proof that even the most challenging battles can be won when we stand united, fueled by a common goal and unwavering determination.

Join Uplifting Athletes on February 3rd at Lincoln Financial Field to celebrate the next generation of rare disease research leaders.

Witness the power of sports ignite hope and watch the future of medicine unfold, one grant, one breakthrough, one draft pick at a time. *

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