Florida State Chapter of Uplifting Athletes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Upon his arrival at Florida State just a few weeks prior to the start of the 2012 season, Penn State transfer Kevin Haplea knew that he wanted to make his presence felt both on and off field at his new program.

The on-field part was a given. A late addition to the roster, Haplea immediately provided much-needed experience to a tight end position that lacked much of that characteristic. The off-field aspect, though, wasn’t quite as easy. Haplea knew he wanted to make a positive impact — and he had a pretty specific idea of how — but finding the necessary time to introduce and integrate his plan wasn’t feasible with his time spread thin between football, school and adjusting to a new life in Tallahassee.

But sometimes, things have a strange way of working out. And when Haplea learned in June that his senior season had ended before it ever started because of an off-season ACL tear, FSU’s No. 2 tight end knew what he had to do.

A member of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter, Haplea had always wanted to orchestrate the creation of a chapter at Florida State.

“I thought this was a great way to bring a positive out of my injury,” Haplea said.

Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds for rare and under-served diseases. The organization has a liaison at the national chapter but is run at each school solely by football student-athletes, who are not only responsible for the organization of their particular chapter but for the marketing and fund-raising efforts as well.

“It’s really good for us to not only get involved for something that is bigger than ourselves and football but it gives us a lot of good experience working in the real world and business experience,” Haplea said. “It’s just really beneficial to everybody involved.”

At Penn State, Haplea worked with the Nittany Lions’ chapter to raise funds and awareness for kidney caner. At FSU, Haplea wanted the ‘Noles’ Uplifting Athletes focus to be on Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disease that affects thousands of children each year — including FSU coach Jimbo Fisher’s youngest son, Ethan.

Fisher and his wife, Candi, set up the Kidz 1st Fund to aid in the fight against Fanconi anemia and Haplea wants Uplifting Athletes to help in that on-going battle.

“We are on such a big stage as college football players and especially here at Florida State we have a lot of national attention,” Haplea said. “When we talk our voices are heard so we can do a lot of good with this and I think it’s definitely going to go a long way.”

Added Fisher: “You can change the world and you can take the platform you have with athletics and really turn it into something great. Kevin has done that and he’s a tremendous young man.”