Western Illinois punter, who faced dire childhood diagnosis, plans rare disease fundraiser

Max Blaschke, a senior punter at Western Illinois, is a nominee for the 2022 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team. (Photo via YouTube)

By Barry Bottino

At the age of 8, Western Illinois punter Max Blaschke was given a life-changing diagnosis. Because of a rare form of epilepsy, the active boy from Independence, Minn., was told his future would be severely limited.

Doctors said he would not be able to participate in sports, and likely wouldn’t have the ability to attend college by himself or hold down a job.

“I had the bar set pretty low for my whole life,” Blaschke said in a YouTube video announcing his commitment to WIU. “When I was about 8 years old, I had two to three seizures a month. It got to a severity level where I actually went brain dead for a short period of time.”

Max Blaschke

This fall, Blaschke is living life well beyond expectations.

After spending three seasons as a punter at NAIA Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, he is a senior at WIU pursuing a master’s degree in finance. He is also using his voice to inspire others with rare diseases and raise money.

On Nov. 12, when Western hosts Indiana State in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game, the Leathernecks will host a Touchdown and Turnover Pledge Drive to raise awareness and funds for the rare disease community.

Blaschke is a nominee for the 2022 Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Team.

The WIU punter and his teammates have set a goal of raising $2,000 during the event. Football fans can make a flat donation or pledge a specific amount for each touchdown scored or turnover forced by the Leathernecks against Indiana State.

To make a donation or pledge, visit Blaschke and WIU’s fundraising website.

Uplifting Athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit launched in 2007, has raised $7 million since its inception.

“I am grateful that I’m able to share my story to inspire hope in others with similar stories,” Blaschke said in a WIU press release. “It’s important to never give up hope. You can do anything you want with your life. You just have to be willing to work hard enough to get it.”

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