Tech’s Trey Klock is on a mission to support rare-disease research

Georgia Tech offensive tackle Trey Klock remembers his brother Kyle with a tattoo on his back. In 1997, when Klock was 1 1/2, Kyle died at the age of 3 of Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder for which there is no known cure.

For the past year, Klock has sought to honor his memory in a different way, one that will be celebrated with flipped tires, tossed medicine balls and money raised to fight Tay-Sachs and other rare conditions. Klock’s hope is that the fundraising efforts that he has initiated at Tech will be as indelible as the ink on his back.

“This isn’t something that we’re just coming out of nowhere from,” Klock said. “There’s been a lot of work and it’s something that is really important to me and a lot of guys on the team.”

Klock, who started at left tackle for the final three games of the 2015 season, is the founder of the Tech chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit that supports the rare-disease community through the platform given college football players. Tech’s chapter is one of about 25 in the country that seeks to raise money for research and awareness.

Klock, from Hummelstown, Pa., came to Tech intending to bring Uplifting Athletes with him. Besides Kyle’s passing, his uncle Tom Kirchhoff lost his battle with ALS in March 2015. Kirchhoff also played collegiately, at Lafayette. The founder of Uplifting Athletes, Scott Shirley, was a high-school student of Klock’s mother, Karen, before going on to play for Penn State.

“He knows, the fact that he’s an athlete at an institution that gets attention for football, you try to take advantage of that and get the word out,” said Trey’s father Rob Klock, who coached Trey and his younger brother Tommy at Lower Dauphin High.

Before he came to Tech, Klock helped his parents with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Kyle’s memory for Tay-Sachs research and treatment. Over the years, the event — held now at Lower Dauphin — has raised more than $100,000.

“It was just something that I’ve been really passionate about, (that) I’ve thought about for a long time,” Klock said.

To start the chapter, Klock wrote a constitution for the organization, took the necessary steps to be confirmed as an official student organization, met with the athletic department’s NCAA rules compliance office and gathered support from coaches. He spoke to the team, recruited a leadership team and has led organization for the actual fundraiser.

“The normal student-athlete probably would have given into it a little bit,” said strength and conditioning coach John Sisk, who serves as the chapter’s staff advisor. “He’s very driven. It’s something that he really believes in and has taken the time.”

Long snappers Casey Wilson and Trevor Stroebel, safety Shaun Kagawa and linebacker Terrell Lewis have joined Klock in leading the chapter. Klock said defensive coordinator Ted Roof and A-backs coach Lamar Owens have been particularly helpful, along with Sisk.

The inaugural fundraiser that Klock has organized is billed as “Lift for Life,” a competition between the team’s position groups that will include an obstacle course, tug of war, tire flips, medicine ball toss and conditioning drills. Players have sought donations based on position groups, and the team had raised $6,000 as of Thursday, exceeding its $5,000 goal.

Klock already is plotting for the future. He plans to speak to the team’s incoming freshmen shortly after they enroll, and he has ideas for future events to include autograph sessions and the participation of former Tech players.

“We have a lot of goals set, and it’s something we’re going to keep at Georgia Tech for a long time,” he said.

For more information, visit the Uplifting Athletes website.