The Philadelphia Eagles have launched the **Eagles Autism Challenge**, a cycling and 5K event that includes the participation of coaches, players, alumni, executives, cheerleaders and SWOOP. This annual family-fun day is dedicated to raising money for Autism Spectrum Disorder research and support.
The Eagles Autism Challenge will feature cycling routes of 15, 30 and 50 miles, along with a family-friendly 5K run/walk. All four routes will start at Lincoln Financial Field. The cycling routes will offer participants a chance to ride through the City of Philadelphia and its suburbs. Runners and walkers will experience a one-of-a-kind course taking them through Lincoln Financial Field and the surrounding neighborhood. The event will begin with a Friday Kick-Off Party and will culminate Saturday with a celebration on the field after crossing the finish line.
A 501(c)(3) organization, Eagles Autism Challenge, Inc., will direct 100 percent of participant-raised funds to autism research and programs at three nationally recognized research institutions – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. These beneficiary institutions have formed a coalition of the top researchers and scientists in the field in hopes to help drive scientific breakthroughs that will have an impact for generations.
"It is very difficult for a single institution to address the complex medical and scientific issues presented by the condition of autism," said Chairman and CEO of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie. "So the partnership was organized to bring fresh ways of thinking and the necessary resources to the field.
"I have such great respect and admiration for the amazing work that Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel and Thomas Jefferson are conducting today," added Lurie.
Over the last 20 years, the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased at a startling rate, yet it has historically been underfunded, misunderstood and under-researched. It is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country with one in 68 children affected and one in 42 boys. Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder range from mild to severe and most individuals with autism experience verbal and non-verbal communication challenges, difficulties in the areas of social interaction and cognitive function, and a propensity to repeat behaviors.
"Teams at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia care for thousands of children on the autism spectrum each year," said Madeline Bell, CHOP's President and CEO. "These patients and their families need answers, solutions and treatments that can only come from breakthroughs in research – and they are counting on us to make those breakthroughs. Fundraising events like the Eagles Autism Challenge give our teams the resources they need to make discoveries that will change our patients' lives today and help them thrive in adulthood."
For Jefferson, the partnership is yet another way to drive for progress and breakthroughs.
"Families need one team working toward the same goal, in the same fight," said Stephen K. Klasko, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. "Jefferson Health's experts are on the front lines of childhood-autism research, and now, with the Eagles leadership, we will push progress forward to make a difference in the lives of families of children with autism. We're proud to partner with the Eagles on this important and vital initiative that will meet our mission of improving lives."
Each participant in the Eagles Autism Challenge will be responsible for a registration fee as well as a fundraising minimum. To register, supporters are encouraged to **visit www.eaglesautismchallenge.org**. The registration fee for all three cycling routes is $150, while the 5K run/walk is $50. Virtual participants can sign up for $25. By registering for the Eagles Autism Challenge, members will receive access to the Friday Kick-Off Party and Saturday's Finish Line Celebration at Lincoln Financial Field, free food and beverage for both days, a cycling jersey or 5K T-shirt, honorary medal (riders and runners/walkers only) and more.
Participants must be 13 or older for the 15-mile and 18 or older for the 30- and 50-mile rides. Children 12 and under may participate in the 5K free of charge under the supervision of a registered adult.
Eagles experiences have been added as rewards for participants who hit milestone fundraising markers.
"Finding ways for people on the autism spectrum to pursue fulfilling lives is vitally important work to this community, and I'm deeply grateful that the Eagles Autism Challenge will help us continue our efforts," said Drexel University President, John Fry.
For more information on the Eagles Autism Challenge, **please visit eaglesautismchallenge.org**.