UNIVERSITY PARK — One year ago, Penn State linebacker Ben Kline worked as lead organizer of Lift For Life among his teammates. But on the day of the annual fundraiser for the Kidney Cancer Association, he was only an observer, not a participant.
As his teammates lifted and ran, grunted and strained, the Dallastown High School graduate, coming off surgery for a torn Achilles tendon during a workout less than a month earlier, remained confined to a motorized cart with a boot on his left foot. He would miss the 2014 season.
On Saturday, Kline, president of the Penn State Uplifting Athletes chapter and again serving as lead organizer, returned for Lift For Life. This time, he was fully engaged and active.
"Last year was tough, being out and rolling around in the cart and coming fresh off the injury," said Kline, a senior who graduated in 3½ years in December with a degree in finance.
"It's been a long year since then. A lot's happened, and it's really good to be out here and be able to run and actually participate today."
In addition to lifting, the program included a shuttle run, tug of war, sled pull and other tests of strength and agility. Most of the players attended, although one notable exception was quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who is working at the Manning (as in Peyton and Eli) Passing Academy in Louisiana.
About 2,500 attended. Uplifting Athletes was founded at Penn State in 2003 and has raised more than $1 million.
"For us, it's a fun event," said tight end Adam Breneman, who is coming off a knee injury and like Kline, missed all of last season. "It's kind of a laid-back thing. We're out here trying to raise money for kidney cancer. It's not like we're treating it like a game. It's fun. What's cool is the whole team is involved. I think this year we did a good job of getting everyone on the team to raise money through their families."
After the event, held at the lacrosse field, players met with fans and signed autographs.
"A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure we raise a good sum of money, and we can provide an awareness of kidney cancer and rare-disease patients, so the opportunity to do that today is really exciting," Kline said. "And to be out in front of our fans and do some physical activity for the first time in a while, is fun and kind of gets us ready for the season."