Torrents of rain pounded the pavement all across Philadelphia Saturday, but it didn’t stop more than 3,000 people from running and riding to raise money for research in the inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge.
Late last year, the Philadelphia Eagles announced a new ride/run to raise money for autism research, naming the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute as one of the beneficiaries. At the end of the event Saturday, the Eagles announced that 3,300 participants raised $2.3 million — and counting.
“Congratulations to all of you who didn’t let a little rain get in the way of something so important,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said at the completion of the event. “Today was just the start of change.”
Throughout the morning, cyclists in the 15-, 30- and 50-mile bike rides and runners/walkers in the 5k battled through the soaking rains. However, at the finish line inside Lincoln Financial Field and all along the routes — including at the Drexel cheer zone behind the Daskalakis Athletic Center — a party atmosphere persevered.
Many current and former Eagles — including the likes of Carson Wentz, Jason Kelce, Ike Reese and Connor Barwin — took part in the Challenge or cheered riders and runners along. But Drexel’s Dragons were well-represented, with President John Fry, the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s founding director Craig Newschaffer, and many faculty, students and alums sporting the blue and gold from the starting to finish lines.
Although the last person crossed the finish line a little before noon Saturday, fundraising remains open until the end of the month, so it is likely that Saturday’s total will grow even larger.
As the funding totals are still being finalized, the beneficiaries — which, in addition to Drexel, also included the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health — are still determining what exact projects the money raised will go toward.