Reflections on the Eagles Autism Challenge
May 21, 2018
Persistent rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those who attended the first Eagles Autism Challenge this past Saturday in Philadelphia. The race, organized by the Philadelphia Eagles, raised funds for autism research at Drexel University, CHOP, and Jefferson Health.
Drexel turned out in full force, from President Fry ready for a bike ride and Mario, Drexel’s official dragon mascot, to staff and students who ran, walked and rode to show their support.
Drexel alumni and Drexel’s Neurodragons – a new campus organization committed to raising awareness of the value of neurodiversity – manned critical cheer zones along the race route. Staff from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute as well as the Drexel Autism Support Program were on hand to offer resources as well as spirited support. Participants crossed the finish line at Lincoln Financial Field with their favorite 2018 Super Bowl champs.
Dr. Craig Newschaffer, founding director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, participated in the event with his family. “I was floored by the dedication and exuberance of everyone from participants to planners,” said Newschaffer. “This was an amazing event from start to finish, and we are grateful to have been part of it.”
“Despite the rain the excitement at the Linc was palpable. It was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful event,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, director of Outreach at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.
Although the event is over, fundraising efforts continue until the end of this month, when the deadline for meeting fundraising minimums ends. As of Saturday, the Eagles Autism Challenge had already raised $2.4M. Drexel Autism Institute staff have made heroic efforts to fundraise thus far.
Research coordinator Kerry Traub auctioned off to highest bidders the chance to decide what to do with his annual winter beard, ultimately raising all his funds from supporters who debated whether Traub would spend a day wearing floating mutton chops, half of a beard or other intriguing options.
Ultimately, “glitter beard” won and Traub donned purple glitter for the day like a good sport, serving as an ambassador for why funding autism research was worth a little embarrassment. When strangers asked Traub about his beard, he took the opportunity to do some impromptu PR for the race and explain how he was raising money for autism research. People expressed interest in participating and sincere appreciation for his efforts.
Research associate Jessica Rast raised more than $6,000 as a virtual participant, securing her spot as the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s top fundraiser.
To learn more or donate, go to www.EaglesAutismChallenge.org.