Thanks to participants in the first-ever Eagles Autism Challenge, more than $2.5 million was raised to go toward autism research by a trio of beneficiaries that includes the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.
“I’m so grateful to the Eagles for their leadership, and to all the members of the Drexel community who helped make this inaugural event such a success,” said Drexel President John Fry. “With new resources made available through the Eagles Autism Challenge, the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute will be able to enhance its research efforts and work even harder to smooth the path for those with autism.”
A total of 3,319 participants raised funds to bike, run or walk in the May 19 event, but fundraising efforts officially continued until the end of the month.
Check out a photo recap of the Eagles Autism Challenge
Representatives from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and the other beneficiaries — the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health — are working to determine what exact research they’ll undertake as a result of the Challenge’s funding.
The founding director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Craig Newschaffer, PhD, is thrilled by the possibilities.
A group of Drexel students from the swimming and diving team after participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge.
“The infusion of resources for autism research in the region provided by the Eagles Autism Challenge will undoubtedly accelerate scientific progress,” he said. “At Drexel, we hope to be able to use these the Challenge’s support to discover modifiable autism risk factors, lower the age of autism diagnosis in the community, extend the availability and effectiveness of evidence-supported early interventions and maximize quality of life for adults living with autism — all efforts that will benefit families here in Philadelphia and worldwide.”
Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie described the first challenge as “transformational” and a “call to action.”
“When we work together and set our sights on ambitious — yet attainable — goals, we can become a catalyst for change,” he said. “And I strongly believe, though our collective efforts, we took one giant step on May 19.”
Despite a deluge of rain, the event was a party-like and featured many Eagles, past and present, including the likes of Carson Wentz, Jason Kelce and Ike Reese.
The Eagles have already announced their intent to make the Challenge an annual event and will set a date for the next one at a later time.