Ethan and Trey Fisher are fixtures at Florida State football games and practices. When the Seminoles go out to the practice field each afternoon in the fall, they will see the Fisher boys, talk to them and often throw the football around.
In many ways, Ethan and Trey are little brothers to the FSU football players.
Some veterans have been around the program long enough to remember Ethan when he was first diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare and serious blood disease, in 2011. Other players are new to the FSU family. Either way, they see the Fisher boys constantly. And there's a desire to help both their coach and his sons in any way they can.
"Ethan is always around," sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey said. "We love Ethan. And of course we'll do anything for Coach Fisher. He puts his all into us, so why not give back to him?"
And that's what FSU's players are doing. Kevin Haplea did not play last year after the tight end suffered a season-ending knee injury in June 2013. While rehabilitating, Haplea turned his time and energy toward starting a chapter of Uplifting Athletes in Tallahassee. The group's aim is to have college football players raise awareness and funds for rare diseases. Haplea was familiar with Uplifting Athletes at his previous school, Penn State, where he attended from 2010-11.
Haplea's plan was to have FSU's Uplifting Athletes chapter hold a fundraiser for Kidz 1st Fund, the organization formed by Jimbo and Candi Fisher to fight Fanconi anemia.
About 60 FSU football players competed in a variety of drills on Friday in the Lift for Life event inside the team's indoor practice facility before fans who had donated $10 for adults and $5 for kids as admission. The event raised $2,780 at the door, and fans also contributed $14,725 to the event at upliftingathletes.org.
Nick O'Leary pushes the sled at the FSU lift for life event pic.twitter.com/Mf4g4353t6— Bob Ferrante (@BobFerrante) July 11, 2014
Players pushed sleds, flipped oversized tires and pushed two large vans as offensive players competed in timed events against the defensive players. The competition was spirited, and the players clearly had fun. Defensive back P.J. Williams said he thought the offense won, but in the end, the result didn't matter, as the Seminoles raised money to help Kidz 1st Fund.
For Haplea, it was the culmination of a nearly year-long effort.
"I think everything happens for a reason," said Haplea, who will be a senior in 2014. "I definitely wouldn't have been able to start this up if I didn't have all that extra time on my hands. It's definitely a proud moment. I know we had a good crowd today and raised a lot of money for a great cause."
Pushing vans should be the next NCAA sport pic.twitter.com/unFPIWD0pt— Bob Ferrante (@BobFerrante) July 11, 2014
The Kidz 1st Fund has donated approximately $2 million toward Fanconi anemia research in three years. Ethan Fisher is now nine years old and is healthy and active. But Fanconi anemia "prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for the body to work normally," the University of Minnesota Pediatric Blood & Marrow Transplantation Center website says. There will eventually be a need for Ethan to have a bone marrow transplant. The Fishers' oldest son, Trey, was tested in 2011 but was not a match as a bone marrow donor for Ethan.
The Fisher family has dedicated its time to fundraising and has donated money from the Kidz 1st Fund to the Fanconi Anemia Comprehensive Care Clinic at the University of Minnesota.
And now, the time and energy of FSU's players has contributed to the Fisher family's effort. Jimbo Fisher said he and his wife, Candi, are appreciative of Haplea for organizing the event and the players' enthusiasm and support.
"Kevin has done an unbelievable job of getting this off the ground," Fisher said. "He's a class act. ... It speaks volume about the character of our players. For them to come out and help our family like this and the other children, words don't explain it. It's just an unbelievable appreciation we have and respect we have for our players."
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.