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July 9, 2013

Football players will 'Lift for Life'

A rare neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system has galvanized the South Carolina football team into taking action.

Less than 200,000 Americans (one of every 1,500) suffer from Pelizaeus Merzbacher, one of 7,000 known rare diseases, but one of them is the 19-year old cousin of Gamecock walk-on running back Devin Potter.

Connor McLaurin, a junior fullback from Raleigh, N.C., leaped into action upon learning about it.

A few months ago, McLaurin and walk-on fullback Jordan Diaz spearheaded the formation of a USC chapter affiliated with Uplifting Athletes, a nationwide non-profit organization run by current college football players devoted to raising funds, awareness and education in the fight against rare diseases.

PMD, which distresses coordination, motor abilities and intellectual function to varying degrees, is the affliction chosen by the USC chapter to fight.

McLaurin serves as chapter president, while Diaz is vice president.

In an effort to begin raising funds, the USC players are holding the inaugural Lift for Life event at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Proving Grounds, which is adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium. The event is open to the public.

"It's short notice, but we're trying to get this thing rolling as quickly as we can because we haven't had a lot of time," McLaurin told GamecockCentral.com on Monday. "We're going to get everybody out there and get better-known and roll from there. The closer we get, the more I feel it's going to be a great event."

Led by strength and conditioning coach Joe Connolly, Gamecock players will grind through a typical summer conditioning workout, offering fans a rare glimpse into the different activities comprising a workout, including pushing blocking sleds, tug-of-war, lifting weights and sprints.

"A lot of it will be similar to the winter workout video people have seen on YouTube," McLaurin said. "Fans will be able to watch us compete and do team competition. We have about 11 teams. It will be our summer workout routine. It will be a good opportunity for the public to actually see us perform our workout and see what we do in the offseason. As far as I know, nobody has ever been able to see us do a summer workout."

Potter's cousin afflicted with PMD has great difficulty in talking, walking or moving his arms, McLaurin said.

"The fact one of our teammates has a cousin battling this disease has made it much more personal," McLaurin said.

USC is the first Uplifting Athletes chapter in the SEC to hold an official fundraising event.

"(The founder and national director) called coach Joe and asked if we would be interested in trying to help in a good cause," McLaurin said. "Coach Joe agreed and came to me and asked if I would help him with it and stay involved. I said, 'Of course.' I definitely don't mind helping raise money for something like that.

"Maybe some other SEC schools will see what we're going and want to get more involved and help take Uplifting Athletes nationwide. Not many organizations are doing what Uplifting Athletes is doing with college football. It's such an awesome opportunity to help others."

Gamecock fans desiring to contribute can make a donation at liftforlife.upliftingathletes.org by clicking on the USC link. That page is part of the comprehensive Uplifting Athletes website.

Who: USC Chapter of Uplifting Athletes
What: Lift for Life
Where: The Proving Grounds, Columbia
When: 6 p.m. Thursday

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