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Matt Auerbach: An American Dream come true

Matt Auerbach (Photo courtesy of the Brandywine School District)
Matt Auerbach (Photo courtesy of the Brandywine School District)

Each day, just before school begins at Mt. Pleasant Elementary in Wilmington, Delaware, a classroom of young students leads the daily announcements alongside Principal Matt Auerbach.

He lives just a mile away; both of his children attended the school. He's fondly known in the community as an innovative educator, a passionate family man, and, of course, a crazed Eagles fan.

Most days, mindful breathing exercises are broadcasted throughout the school in an effort to promote positivity to start the day. But when an Eagles game approaches, the lucky classroom gets to join Auerbach in reciting his favorite fight song – "Fly, Eagles Fly!"

Auerbach was preparing for a typical day of announcements via Zoom one morning in November, when, much to his surprise, Brandon Graham came into view on his screen to deliver a very special message.

"I want to congratulate your principal, Mr. Auerbach, for being our 2022 Eagles Fan of the Year," Graham said. "Thank you for being such an awesome Eagles fan, and I hope you have a great day, Go Birds!"

Auerbach was met with cheerful applause from his students, and before he understood what was happening, Eagles Cheerleaders and staff joined his family to award him the honor and a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.

"This is really a dream come true for me," Auerbach said, overcome with emotion.

He recalled that impactful day while sitting at his desk, where he spends countless hours working towards minimizing the opportunity and achievement gaps that his students face. Mt. Pleasant is a Title 1 school, meaning at least 40 percent of its enrollment consists of children who come from low-income families.

The American flag and Eagles flag that hang next to each other in Auerbach's office are representative of his life – which he describes as a miracle that began before he was even born.

Auerbach is a second-generation Jewish immigrant; his grandmother, Ester, was a Holocaust survivor. She gave birth to Matt's father, Allen, in 1949 during World War II in an American Red Cross camp in Germany. She was one of seven siblings, but only she and her sister survived; her parents and five of her siblings perished under Nazi rule. Ester brought Allen at age 2 to the United States by way of Ellis Island, eventually settling in Philadelphia, where they became lifelong fans of the hometown football team.

"It's a miracle that I'm even here today," said Auerbach. "They came literally from nothing, just the clothes on their back. (My father's) story is the American Dream."

Upon arrival in the United States, Auerbach's grandmother found work in Northeast Philadelphia's famous Ben and Irv's delicatessen, where her Jewish-influenced cooking quickly garnered a following.

"Everybody knew her as this famous cook – we would go to all these events and her mushroom barley soup and matzo ball soup were the best. Everybody wanted her recipes, and they still have her recipes today at this place," he said.

All the while, Allen grew up to become a well-respected doctor, serving as a physician in Pennsville, New Jersey, for 44 years. He became a Season Ticket Member for the Philadelphia Eagles early in the Veterans Stadium era, bringing Matt to games before he was even 10 years old.

"My dad instilled in my siblings and me that life is all about experiences and opportunities. He would spend the money, he would sacrifice his job and other relationships with friends and people to take his family and his kids to different events," Matt said.

"He would always come prepared with different sandwiches, binoculars, bags, additional clothing, and gloves. Oh, he was like the mule who would just bring anything and everything you could possibly want to the game. But I don't think he realized, I just loved being there with him. That's what it was all about."

They've watched some of the most notable Eagles moments side by side – through electric triumphs like the Snow Bowl in 2013 to the Super Bowl loss in Jacksonville, he and his dad remained Philadelphia faithful through it all.

"Just like being in those moments with my dad watching the Eagles – it just reminded me that this is what he's been trying to do his whole life. To give me these incredible opportunities, these incredible experiences, coming from where he came from, with just the clothes on his back to where he was in that moment of his life where he was. And I was right there with him like we were on top of a mountain," he said.

The last Eagles game Matt and his father attended together was the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, leading to the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history.

Allen passed away in 2018, but before he parted, he transferred his long-held season tickets to Matt. Ester passed away in November of 2020, but the inseparable pair left behind everlasting morals, traditions, and hope that Matt cherishes and carries into his own family and his school to this day.

The Auerbach family's season tickets mean far more than seats at a game. Matt has since held his father's tickets dear, using them to spend time with his 10-year-old son Noah, his 13-year-old daughter Ayla, and his wife, Sara, every chance he gets.

"I just hope that I will be able to pass that on. I mean, I am doing it. I am passing that love of the Eagles on to my own family," Matt said.

"It is the American Dream, you know, and I'm living proof of it. For me to be able to use this opportunity to tell my story, it's just incredible."

He's fully embraced being a Season Ticket Member at school, too, using every opportunity to carry out Eagles-themed antics, all to raise money to benefit his students. As part of a school fundraiser that made $20,000, he even shaved his hair into a mohawk and dyed his hair green!

His most recent venture was another fundraiser, on his birthday, which fell shortly after the Fan of the Year announcement. He took to Facebook, asking for donations to Eagles Autism Foundation in lieu of gifts.

"The fact that the Eagles recognized me as their Fan of the Year, given my story, tells me that the Eagles really do value family and community," he said.

Matt Auerbach with his family and Eagles Cheerleaders (Photo courtesy of the Brandywine School District)
Matt Auerbach with his family and Eagles Cheerleaders (Photo courtesy of the Brandywine School District)

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