The Philadelphia Eagles are thrilled to announce that the inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge raised more than $2.5 million for innovative autism research and programs, thanks in large part to the more than 3,300 participants who came out to bike, run, and walk on Saturday, May 19. One hundred percent of participant-raised funds from the charity event will be directed to the groundbreaking research being conducted at three nationally recognized institutions: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health.
"The inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge was transformational in so many ways, but more importantly, it was a call to action," said Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman and CEO of the Philadelphia Eagles. "When we work together and set our sights on ambitious, yet attainable goals, we can become a catalyst for change. I strongly believe that through our collective efforts, we took one giant step on May 19.
"Not only are we advancing autism research together, but we are changing the conversation from autism awareness to action. What we learn here will be shared both nationally and globally so that everyone can benefit. I am so inspired and deeply thankful to our dedicated beneficiary partners, the participants, donors, sponsors, and Eagles fans around the world for supporting us in our mission to transform the lives of those impacted by autism," added Lurie.
The Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group offered participants the option to choose from three unique bike routes (Wawa Junior 15-Mile Ride, Wawa Shorti 30-Mile Ride, Wawa Classic 50-Mile Ride), in addition to the family-friendly "five Below 5K Run/Walk." All four routes commenced at Lincoln Financial Field and took participants on a one-of-a-kind course that navigated them through 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 festivities awaited. Following an awards ceremony and closing remarks from Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, Interscope recording artist Alex Aiono – nephew of Eagles defensive tackle Haloti Ngata – performed for the crowd.
The event was fully supported by Eagles players, coaches, alumni, executives, cheerleaders, and mascot SWOOP. Team representatives who participated in either the biking or 5K components included: Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie; head coach Doug Pederson; President Don Smolenski; President Eagles Charitable Foundation, Eagles Social Responsibility Christina Weiss Lurie; Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman; kicker Jake Elliott; wide receiver Mack Hollins; wide receiver Alshon Jeffery; and center Jason Kelce. Other notable participants included former Eagles players Connor Barwin, Brent Celek, Quintin Mikell, Ike Reese, Tra Thomas, and Redskins defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, whose has a personal connection to autism.
"We are thankful to the entire Philadelphia Eagles organization for their shared passion in calling attention to this important cause," said Madeline Bell, President and CEO of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "When it comes to making breakthroughs, there is strength in numbers. That is why we look forward to this new collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Health, and Drexel University, that will help fuel tomorrow's breakthroughs for thousands of children and families affected by autism."
"I'm so grateful to the Eagles for their leadership, and to all the members of the Drexel community who helped make this inaugural event such a success," said John Fry, Drexel University President. "With new resources made available through the Eagles Autism Challenge, the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute will be able to enhance its research efforts and work even harder to smooth the path for those with autism."
"We need to fundamentally transform how we help individuals succeed, and how our community welcomes people with autism in jobs, in schools, in airplanes, in shops, everywhere," said Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. "Jeffrey Lurie challenged us to work together to make that happen. Now it's up to all of us to think differently."
Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country. As of April 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest facts and figures which indicate that autism prevalence has increased from one in 68 children to one in 59. Autism has been historically underfunded, misunderstood and under-researched. The Eagles Autism Challenge is working to bring thought leaders in the field of autism together to collaborate on groundbreaking research that will have a monumental impact around the world.
A 501(c)(3) organization, the Eagles Autism Challenge was spearheaded by Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie with a goal to bring fresh ways of thinking and the necessary resources to the field of autism.
The Eagles Autism Challenge is an annual fundraising event that welcomes Eagles fans and autism supporters around the world to come and join the team in turning autism awareness into action. The date of the second annual Eagles Autism Challenge will be announced at a later time.
The inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge, a one-day bike ride and family-friendly 5K run/walk, kicked off this weekend! It began with a party at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night ahead of the main event on Saturday. Take a look at photos from the very first Eagles Autism Challenge.