STATE COLLEGE — For Eric Shrive, it began with a simple invitation.
Brett Brackett, a future Penn State captain, reached out to Shrive and a few of his freshman classmates in 2009 to get involved with Uplifting Athletes, and the charitable organization’s biggest event — Lift For Life.
Four record-setting years later, Shrive has grown into the group’s leader, personally raising more than $100,000 to benefit kidney cancer research.
Entering his fifth and final season with the Nittany Lions, Shrive topped $42,000 for this year’s event, which was held Friday at Penn State’s lacrosse field, just a short walk from Beaver Stadium.
Shrive, a West Scranton grad, was chapter president this year and joined in leadership roles by fellow offensive linemen Ty Howle and Adam Gress. Under them, Lift For Life set a record this year, topping $115,000 as of Friday night. A final number will announced next week.
The event has raised more than $800,000 in 11 years.
Now the group feels a responsibility to keep the cycle going.
“In the beginning, the three of us all came in the same (recruiting class), and Brett Brackett reached out to us and invited us to a meeting,” Shrive said. “It’s funny, we found ourselves a couple of days ago reaching out to a freshman study hall and inviting them to a meeting.
“After we joked around about it, we looked back and we said that was four years ago that we were sitting in their shoes. Time flies like that. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to do in that time on and off the field.”
It’s a legacy that the group wants to keep going. It began with a group of Penn State players led by Scott Shirley, whose father died of kidney cancer.
Shrive’s uncle, Marty King of Scranton, was diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago, after Shrive began his work with the organization.
“No matter what I do on Saturday on the football field, raising $110,000 is going to go a lot further in people’s lives and help people beat this rare disease,” Shrive said.
“If that’s what I’m remembered for when I leave here, that’s fine with me.”
It did take some time to come to grips with that thought. Shrive, after all, was one of the nation’s highest-rated prospects as a senior at West Scranton High School.
But it wasn’t until 2012, his fourth year on campus, that he saw any significant playing time, spelling starters for a series here and there in the trenches.
He saw work with the first-team offense this past spring and was listed as a second-team tackle when the team released a depth chart in June.
“It was an adjustment, I’m not gonna lie,” Shrive said. “I came here as a five-star recruit, and it’s been a challenge. It’s been a struggle. But I found myself making an impact on the field last year, and I’ve always made an impact (with Lift For Life and Uplifting Athletes).”
With Shrive, Howle and Gress all set to graduate, finding new leaders for the group will continue into the fall and winter. There are plenty of candidates, young and old.
True freshman tight end Adam Breneman, for example, raised nearly $200,000 for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2012 as part of a senior project called Catch The Cure.
“That’s been something we’ve been working on all year, trying to get a younger guy to step up,” Shrive said. “We’ll be here until December and we’re going to continue to search for that person. We have a few guys in mind and we think they’ll pick it up, just like we did and continue this great tradition at Penn State.
“I think someday we’re going to see this as the Coaches vs. Cancer (basketball charity event) for football.”