Philadelphia Eagles News

Sarah Martinez-Helfman On Eagles Flight Night!

Opening Remarks: ""Welcome to camp. I'm Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of Eagles Youth Partnership, and I'm here to talk to you about an event that's happening next Sunday, Aug. 2, Eagles Flight Night. We've been running a carnival, an auction, for 14 years, and we've decided to change it up this year. We wanted to be ahead of the curve, create an event that's really fan friendly, that's family friendly, that allows thousands and thousands of fans into the stadium, where before we had to cap it at 10,000. We came up with this concept of Flight Night. Sunday, Aug. 2, festivities start at 5 pm. The HeadHouse plaza will be open at that time with a live band playing, a WYSP broadcast, and lots of chances to win and to purchase signed sports memorabilia. (The) concessions (will be) open. (There will be) a lot of fun in the plaza.

"Then, at 7 o'clock, show time starts, so by then everyone is in their seats in the stands. We will be introducing the team, the 2009 Philadelphia team, live for the first time at Lincoln Financial Field. They'll come running out through that inflatable helmet to a lot of pageantry. The cheerleaders will be there, alumni will be there, and the pep band; lots of surprises. About 5,000 prizes will be randomly given away to fans in the stands, including jerseys right off the players' backs. So, 21 lucky fans will be selected to win jerseys right off of our star players' backs, go down onto the field, and get them signed. It will be a lot of fun.

"It's a mic'd practice, full contact for about 80 minutes, and then we'll cap it off with a fireworks show. It will be eye-popping, spectacular, dazzling. We're talking about 15 minutes, choreographed to music, Eagles highlights, something like you've never seen before. This is the very first time, as far as we know, that any team in the NFL is running an event like this and all the proceeds go to Eagles Youth Partnership. We reach about 50,000 children a year with our programs. We raise around a million dollars from our carnival and auction and now Eagles Flight Night, that's about half of our annual budget.

"The tickets are $10 for kids, $20 for an adult down in the end zone over to the 20 (yard line), between the 40-yard line across the 50, it's $30 dollars. That $30 is enough to put a brand new pair of glasses on the face of a kid who needs it through our Eye Mobile Program. We'll have the club open, that's a $45 dollar ticket. We'll have alumni signing for free up in the club between 6:00 and 7:00 pm, also cheerleaders. I'm talking real alumni, Tommy McDonald. There are a lot of guys who are going to be signing up there. Those same alumni will come down to the field and be introduced before the practice.

"This is a non-alcoholic event. It's a great event for the family. It's a great event for moms and dads to introduce their kids to the Eagles. (Eagles Insider) Dave Spadaro will be emceeing on the sidelines so you really get a feel for the drills and why Coach (Andy) Reid is doing what he's doing. It's really great for kids, and we're really encouraging families to bring their kids out and start those Eagles fans when they are little and grow up together with this event. We plan to do this year after year. We've already sold 23,000 tickets. We expect that the excitement at training camp and a little bit of help from up there with good weather, that we will be able to exceed our fundraising goal our very first year."

On how old EYP is, and approximately how much money has EYP raised over the years:""Eagles Youth Partnership is 14 years old; it started June 12, 1995. Off the top of my head I don't have the dollar amount, but I'll be happy to pull it together and get it to you. Our very first carnival, in 1995, we raised $250,000. It took several years to bump it up to the million we've been holding steady at, a million or more every year since. And we've had to cap it at that because we've had to cap the number of fans that can come in so we don't have gridlock waiting in those autograph lines.

"This is an event that we can raise, over time, a lot more money for Eagles Youth Partnership's programs because we don't charge very much for the fan to get in, but we have 68,000 seats that over time we can fill. With a lot less money to the individual fan, a lot more access for our fan base who really want to get into that stadium and maybe can't get into a game because the season tickets are sold out. Ultimately, we can raise about $1.7 or $1.8 million dollars if we sell out the stadium in a few years for Eagles Youth Partnership."

On whether the coaches and players were involved in the decision to have Eagles Flight Night: ""The Coach (Andy Reid) was involved in this decision. He actually thought that this would be a great way to go to make it much more accessible to the fans. He thought that it would be a great way for them to come down and get on Lincoln Financial Field and see the team. He encouraged us to do it and actually picked the date. (He) thought that it would be terrific if we did this before the preseason to give a boost for Eagles Youth Partnership and be able to say this is the very first time to see the team out there on the field. The players were not involved in the decision. Many of them know about it.

"There are a whole bunch of tags on PhiladelphiaEagles.com where the players talk about it, but a number of the players don't know yet. Coach wants them to stay focused for now on what they need to be doing to earn their job, and when it comes time for Flight Night in a week, they'll all know what they are doing. He's going to let them have fun with it. You'll probably see some illegal touchdown dances that you get penalized for on gameday. You'll see balls going up into the stands that you get penalized for on gameday. This is a real practice, but he's going to let us have some fun and let the players have some fun. Fans can still get their tickets on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, and they can print them out directly from their computers, their home printers, or they can walk up the day of the event and get them at the box office."

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