The Eagles Autism Foundation has announced that the 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group raised more than $2.7 million for autism research and care, thanks to donors from 15 countries, 1,850 participants, and 12,819 donations. One hundred percent of the participant-raised funds will be directed to groundbreaking autism research and programs. Fundraising for the 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge season officially closed on Thursday, September 30. Since the first year of the Eagles Autism Challenge in 2018, a total of 36 countries and 76,788 donations have contributed to the more than $12 million raised through the Eagles Autism Foundation.
"On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles and my family, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has supported our efforts to advance autism research and for contributing to what has been yet another successful year of fundraising," said Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO. "We all clearly know the passion that Eagles fans have for their football team, but more importantly, I have found over the years that it is their generosity, empathy, and commitment to important causes, such as this, that truly define them. The progress we have made – which has positively impacted so many families around the world – would not be possible without our fans and supporters of the Eagles Autism Foundation. As we reflect on this amazing year, we also look ahead to a future of endless possibilities thanks to the support that we are so fortunate to have."
The Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group offered participants the option to choose from three cycling routes (Wawa Junior 10-Mile Ride, Wawa Shorti 30-Mile Ride, Wawa Classic 50-Mile Ride), in addition to a 5K Run/Walk and a family-friendly Sensory Walk. All five routes began at the cross section of 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way and Pattison Avenue and took participants on a scenic journey around the City of Philadelphia and its suburbs. Participants returned to Lincoln Financial Field and crossed the finish line at the 50-yard line where an on-field celebration and awards ceremony awaited. Supporters who wanted to fundraise but were unable to ride, run, or walk on Saturday, August 21 had the option to register as a virtual participant.
"While this past year and a half has presented us all with many unique challenges, the one remaining constant has been the unwavering dedication to our mission by everyone who has embarked on this journey with us," said Ryan Hammond, Executive Director of the Eagles Autism Foundation. "Every dollar raised by the Eagles Autism Foundation is invested back into cutting-edge autism research and care at the top medical institutions in North America. To have raised more than $12 million since 2018 is a true testament to the generosity and compassion our supporters have for the autism community, and for that we are so thankful."
The team's signature fundraising event started with Lurie's vision to bring people together to support the autism community. It sets out to fund innovative research, drive scientific breakthroughs and provide critical resources, all to create a major shift from awareness to action.
The Eagles Autism Foundation is inviting researchers to apply for grant funding to support basic and clinical autism research, studies concentrating on affected individuals and families, and diverse model systems. The 2021 Request for Application process will fund two-year Pilot Grants that demonstrate substantial published or preliminary data signifying that a strong scientific premise supports the study under review. Researchers interested in applying for a Pilot Grant are encouraged to submit a Letter of Intent to the Eagles Autism Foundation by Friday, October 15, 2021. Once all research proposals have been fully vetted and approved by an independent scientific advisory board, a funding pool of more than $2.7 million – raised by the 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge – will be distributed and allocated to the principal investigators.
In addition to the Pilot Grants, community grants of $5,000 to $25,000 will be offered to registered 501(c)(3) organizations in the Philadelphia area serving a direct need in the autism community. Community grants promote local services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, expand the capacity of organizations to effectively serve the autism community, and increase the services available to individuals with autism. Qualified organizations are encouraged to submit an application for a community grant by Monday, October 18, 2021.
Through fundraising efforts associated with the Eagles Autism Foundation, a total of 44 research projects and community grants have been funded for exploratory work in the field of autism since 2018.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 54 people living in the United States are on the autism spectrum. Autism is a complex neurological and developmental condition that expresses itself differently in each individual. The spectrum can range from having challenges in the areas of social skills and nonverbal communication to repetitive interests and behaviors. While it has become one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, it has historically been underfunded, misunderstood, and under-researched.
Check out the best photos from the 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge!