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June 25, 2014

Lift for Life workout set for Thursday

WHAT: Lift for Life
WHERE: USC Fieldhouse (across the street from Stone Stadium)
WHEN: Thur., June 26, 6-7 p.m. (Open to public)
WHY: Raise awareness and research dollars for the rare disease Pelizaeus Merzbacher, the chosen rare disease of the USC chapter.

The first Lift for Life event last year was a hit with players and fans, so South Carolina will do it again.

Described as the signature fundraising event for the Uplifting Athletes nationwide network of 25 college football chapters, the entire USC team will work through various drills for one hour from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday at the USC Fieldhouse, offering fans a rare glimpse into the dynamics of summer workouts.

Fullbacks Connor McLaurin (fully healthy after missing the Capital One Bowl with an ankle injury) and Jordan Diaz serve as USC chapter president and vice-president, respectively.

The Gamecocks have been divided into teams for summer workouts and the Lift for Life event culminates four weeks of daily competition, including flipping tires, tug-o-war and cone drills, under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Joe Connolly, who is entering his sixth year with the program.

"Hopefully, we'll do the exact same thing as last year except on a larger scale and with more people and media there," Diaz told Gamecock Central. "Coach Connolly told me it will be essentially the same format we've had when we work out indoors. We might have some different cone drills, but we'll have the tires, the medicine balls and the sleds."

Each team gains points based on their performance in the drills.

"There are points on the line for us, so that gives the guys a little more incentive," Diaz said.

Each Uplifting Athletes chapter adopts one of approximately 7,000 rare diseases and has a mission of raising awareness and research dollars for the chosen disease. Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization aligning college football with rare diseases and making them a priority through research, outreach, education and advocacy.

USC has the lone Uplifting Athletes chapter among SEC schools, although the movement appears to be gaining momentum among southern-based schools after initially spreading throughout the Northeast and Midwest.

"Once we spoke with (the national director), he broke it all down and told us what we were getting into," Diaz said. "We were more than happy to help because it helps a lot more people than we know. Right now, we're the first and only SEC school doing it. Hopefully, that changes."

This year, the Gamecock chapter has a goal of raising $5,000 towards finding a cure for Pelizaeus Merzbacher (PMD), a rare central nervous system disorder affecting coordination, motor abilities and intellectual function.

The Gamecock chapter chose PMD because sophomore fullback Devin Potter has a relative afflicted with the disease.

"College football gets a lot of attention and a lot of viewers, so that's how (Uplifting Athletes) came about," McLaurin said. "I know fans that think we don't do much in the summer and don't work out. This shows what goes on behind closed doors. There is a lot more extra training work than many people think."

Fans are asked to make a donation of $5 per adult and $2 per child when they enter the Fieldhouse (but none is required to watch the workout), or they may visit USC's donation page at give.upliftingathletes.org/scliftforlife2014.

Autographs are not permitted.


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