University of Pennsylvania Football Team Kicks off Fundraising for Castleman Disease Research

His name is David Fajgenbaum. Although he is now a medical professor, his own journey with health and wellness has been a tumultuous one. His story starts with his time at Georgetown where he was a quarterback. Like many players and their coaches, his coach Bob Benson and he formed a close relationship. Even when Benson left the school and when Fajgenbaum graduated as a Rhodes Scholar, they were able to stay in touch through social media. You can read the original story here.

Not long after however, Fajgenbaum was diagnosed with a disease that has a 35% mortality rate: Castleman Disease.

Fajgenbaum did not let this diagnosis deter him from his aspiration and he went on to earn a MBA from Wharton after his med school career and was named Forbes 30 Under 30 in healthcare in 2015, all while fighting this disease.

Recently, Benson reconnected with his old player Fajgenbaum and asked what he could do to help his illness. The pair went on to create a University project that helps fund research for many diseases and offers much potential in the future.

This was the beginning of the group called Uplifting Athletes.

The Quakers football team at the University of Pennsylvania have now started a chapter within Uplifting Athletes, an organization that contains 24 Division I football programs. Each chapter works hard to raise awareness and research funding for diseases. Individually, the Red and Blue are raising money for the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network.

 What is Castleman Disease?

Castleman disease was first described in the 1950’s by Dr. Benjamin Castleman. Another name for the disease is giant lymph node hyperplasia. This disease is not a cancer but a lymphoproliferative disorder.

This means there is an abnormal overgrowth of cells of the lymph system.

Some forms of this disease can act like a cancer, specifically lymphoma. Castleman disease may be treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Since Castleman Disease affects the lymph system, one way to categorize it is by how much of the body it affects.

It can be localized, which is the more common form, where it only affects one group of the lymph nodes. The disease can also be multicentric, where the disease affects multiple groups of lymph nodes.

The disease affects about 6500 people in the US every year.

The fundraising efforts encourage football teams to play stronger and better than ever before while raising money for a cause and for disease research.

Program donors pledge to give certain amounts for each offensive touchdown or defensive turnover in Ivy League games.

For example, at one point donations were at $184 per touchdown and 82$ per turnover. So the team has to do well to raise more money. The better they do the more money they raise. This pressure is probably part of why the Quakers (who are fundraising for Castleman disease) had a better season than ever before. The team was estimated to raise at least $8,000 during the first fundraising season alone.

The team members have been happy with the fundraising project because it has encouraged them to win and have success while potentially saving lives. The team plans on continuing these fundraising efforts in the future and even opening the efforts up to the larger Georgetown campus by including fraternity or sorority support in the coming years.

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