PHILADELPHIA – At 6:30 am on a Saturday, the area near Pattison Avenue and 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way is usually quiet. The paved parking lots around Lincoln Financial Field remain uncovered, no car or person in sight. However, this was not a typical Saturday.
With the on-site DJ who plays an eclectic mix of remixes by artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Johnny Cash and Chumbawamba, Eagle Players and fans from all over the area came to bike, run and hike together for 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge.
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Events included a sensory walk for families with people with autism, a 5 km run and walk, and bike rides 15 to 80 kilometers in length.
The event was organized by the Eagles Autism Foundation, the benefactor of the fundraiser. All proceeds from the Challenge, which raised more than $ 2.5 million this year, will go towards autism research and support.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said when he first imagined the Eagles Autism Challenge years ago, he never imagined that our community would become what it is today.
“It’s not a one-day event anymore,” Lurie told the crowd that had gathered on the stadium field. “It’s a year-round commitment that has raised nearly $ 12 million since 2018, all of which has been reinvested in the autism community. None of this would be possible without you. “
Managing Director of the Eagles Autism Foundation Ryan Hammond was pleased to attend the event on Saturday, mainly because the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s event to be held virtually.
“What we went through last year to produce a virtual event to stay together while apart and then be able to be physically present and be side by side with our entire organization with the community unite is just amazing. It’s emotional. It’s just overwhelming, and I’m just humbled by the generosity that we people can show up, raise money, and be leaders and advocates again in this community. “
One of the players in attendance to cheer the contestants on was Defensive End Brandon Graham. Graham, a cycling enthusiast who rides 15 to 20 miles per trip in the off-season, said he was happy to see people early this morning to raise funds for the foundation.
Graham also said that his time organizing it helped him learn more about autism and the families it affects.
“This is definitely special because I’ve been here for so long and the story of Mr. Lurie and how it came about just opened my eyes because I’ve never had anyone with autism, but I’m just learning about it I want to give something back and help as best I can. It’s a great event. “
Rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith took part in his first challenge, took selfies with cyclists and wished them all the best on their journey.
“It’s amazing to be out here this morning,” said Smith. “Mr. Lurie did a good job raising money for autism. It’s great to be out here for a cause like this.”
The Eagles will raise money again when they hold their second and final open practice Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Tickets to the exercise are $ 10 and all proceeds will go back to the Eagles Autism Foundation.
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Chris Franklin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.