The Eagles Drumline is accustomed to performing for Eagles fans on Sundays (as well as this Monday night), but recently they had a new audience: the students of Valley Forge Educational Services at The Vanguard School.
Students on the autism spectrum are served at The Vanguard School and were surprised with a special assembly by the Eagles Drumline for a sensory-friendly experience.
Ryan Hammond, Executive Director of the Eagles Autism Foundation, was thrilled to finally see months of planning result in the joy on these kids' faces.
"I think music is definitely therapeutic, and I think it's also a way for people to express themselves," Hammond reflected. "So for individuals that might struggle communicating, we can communicate through music, we can share in that excitement and that enthusiasm, and I think that's really what this is all about."
Hammond also shared that the Eagles Drumline received specific training to be best prepared to support the students.
"We were intentional to make sure everyone is empowered to have the best day, from the students getting accommodations that they may need, to the training that happens on our team to make sure that everyone is met where they are and supported to have a successful day to really celebrate the Eagles," Hammond said.
Music is not a one-size-fits-all activity. People with all abilities can participate and experience the happiness and benefits music provides.
Jeff Phipps, Educational Business Developer for Steve Weiss Music said, "We always look forward to supporting the Philadelphia Eagles organization in their community engagement programs and desire to use music and percussion to connect us all. This sensory-friendly drumline experience encapsulated the wonderful inclusivity that music provides."
The students were instantly drawn to the sounds of instruments as the Eagles Drumline, with their Mapex drums draped in electric-green lights, made their way down the center aisle of the assembly room and onto the stage.
"Our belief at Mapex is that music is an essential and enriching part of life. The Eagles Drumline unites fans through music and their work in the community, and we were proud to be involved in this sensory-friendly drumline experience," said John Harvill, Mapex Marching Arts Artist Relations.
Andy Moffatt, captain of the Eagles Drumline, was so proud of how the performance was received.
"Just to see the way kids' faces light up to music in general, especially the drumline," Moffatt said. "Sometimes it's the vibrations that they feel, and not even the sounds – they'll just touch the drum and feel the vibration. Seeing the kids out there today bopping around in the aisles and dancing in their seats to everything we're doing, it just means the world."
Following the energetic performance, students experienced small group sessions throughout the day to continue to expose them to music – a priority for the Eagles Autism Foundation, The Vanguard School, and Steve Weiss Music.
"The fact that they chose us, The Vanguard School, to come and share this wonderful morning with our kids and staff is equal parts heart-warming and thrilling," said Executive Director of Valley Forge Educational Services, Dr. Grace Fornicola.
Each student was also sent home with a tambourine, so they always have access to music.
"Being able to witness the thrill of being so directly involved with the Eagles Autism Foundation and the Eagles organization in general really does lift our kids' spirits," Fornicola said.
This was not Eagles Autism Foundation's first time partnering with the school, however. The Vanguard School is a previous Community Grant recipient. Their grant funded Phin's Cafe, a student-run coffee and snack shop located on campus. The students make sales as well as take and prepare orders, allowing them the opportunity to learn important work skills, collaboration, and taking direction.
"It's not that we're writing a check and we're wishing them luck. We're really embracing them, bringing them closer to the organization, and finding other opportunities to support them," Hammond said.
This is just another step forward for Hammond and the Eagles Autism Foundation staff.
"It's not just about what we're doing at Lincoln Financial Field, or who we're investing in – it's digging in and being a part of the community, being by their side," Hammond added. "It's just making sure that they know we have their back and that when we have opportunities to bring something new to their community, we're going to do that and we're going to offer music, inclusion, excitement, and celebrate with our fans."
"Awareness into Action." It's a phrase coined by the Eagles Autism Foundation and is the perfect representation of how the mission is executed daily.