To kick off Salute to Service Week leading into Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles partnered with Gold Star Gamers and Verizon to host a gaming event where children from military families played video games with Eagles players.
The mission of Gold Star Gamers is to help kids who have suffered the loss of a military parent find hope and healing through competitive gaming.
"It brightens up kids' faces, it is exciting, and it is all about gaming," said Julian Boddy, a community advisor for Gold Star Gamers.
The organization was founded by Martha Laughman and Tom McAndrews.
Laughman's boys lost their father, Sergeant First Class Matthew Nyman, in combat which had a negative impact on them, especially her youngest son Maddox. He would wear his dad's uniform and pretend to talk with him while playing video games which made Maddox feel closer to his dad. Because of Maddox, Laughman had the idea to create Gold Star Gamers.
"Maddox never got to know the best parts of his dad," Laughman said. "When Matt died, Maddox became a mix of angry with him and desperate to be with him again. We game to remember the good times that Maddox had with his dad. We game to have something positive to focus on. We game so Maddox can connect with other kids in similar situations."
"It is a brotherhood," Boddy said. "It is all about camaraderie and that service that you can appreciate."
Boddy spent 24 years in the military, working in military police and cybersecurity.
While working in the corporate finance world, Boddy realized that he was missing something. That something turned out to be Gold Star Gamers. It allowed him to reconnect with his military roots and continue to serve his community.
"This can help fulfill what I was missing, that service and commitment," Boddy said. "I am able to brighten up kids' lives and help them out."
Gold Star families are ones that lost a sibling, parent, or loved one in military combat.
Along with sponsoring the event, Verizon sent a family from their VALOR employee resource group. At Verizon, VALOR stands for Veterans and Advocates Leading the Organization Responsibly.
Per the organization, the goal of VALOR is to find camaraderie with current and past service members, military spouses, and other supporters with a shared mission to champion and uplift the military community.
Thanks to Boddy's hard work, he helped Gold Star Gamers send Gold Star families to Lincoln Financial Field for a night of fun and games with Eagles players.
The Eagles Community Relations team and Gold Star Gamers set up gaming consoles in the LifeBrand Tunnel Club with games like Madden, Rocket League, and Mario Kart available for kids to play.
Brandon Graham made a surprise appearance at the beginning of the event. He met with military personnel and Gold Star families, taking pictures and signing autographs.
"It was cool to hear about what they do, their mentality, and how our jobs are similar and different," Graham said.
The Eagles celebrated Salute to Service, presented by Toyota, with a Gold Star Gamers event, Military Movie Night, a visit to the VA hospital, and a Gold Star Family meet-and-greet with Lane Johnson. Check out the best photos from the week's festivities and game day action.
Devon Allen, Fred Johnson, and Rick Lovato played video games with the Gold Star children.
Allen and Lovato battled against each other in Rocket League, each partnering with kids who lost a parent in combat. Team Allen got the best of Team Lovato in a hard-fought game.
"A lot of my family is in the military," Allen said. "My grandfather was in the Marines, my mom was in the Army, and I coach track at the Naval Academy now, so I am around a lot of military people. I definitely respect and appreciate everything they do."
SWOOP also got in on the action, taking first place in an intense Mario Kart game.
Johnson was the resident Madden player, taking on 7-year-old Nehemiah Rodriguez. The pair formed a great bond while trying to beat each other.
"It is magic," Boddy said. "This event here is making dreams come true. These kids are sitting next to players and playing video games with them. This is the coolest thing."
After the gaming was over, the children and their families were given a tour of the Eagles' locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, were able to get pictures with the Lombardi Trophy, and walked out onto the field.
The Eagles sent the Gold Star Gamers organization home with a custom jersey that was signed by Allen, Graham, Lovato, Johnson, and all the kids who attended the event. – Written by Owen Boyle