The Eagles Autism Foundation has rescheduled its third annual Autism Challenge for Sept. 26. It was originally scheduled for May 16 but was postponed because of COVID-19.
The Autism Challenge is presented by the Lincoln Financial Group and was launched to provide resources for autism, one of the most-underfunded disabilities. Fans, donors, football players, and others participate in bike rides, 5K runs, walks, and other events to raise awareness and funds.
About 4,000 people participated last year, and the event has raised more than $9 million since 2018, the foundation said. This year’s event was projected to pass those numbers..
“I think when all of this happened in March, we had to take a step back and evaluate what we were doing as an organization,” said Ryan Hammond, executive director of the foundation.
This year’s events will feature more virtual components. The kickoff party, usually held in the club lounge at Lincoln Financial Field, will be virtual. Donors and participants from other countries might not be able to participate in Philadelphia, so there will also be a virtual option. They will also be able to receive T-shirts, a printed certificate, and a medal through the mail.
“We’ve reimagined the event,” Hammond said. “We’ve looked at how we can deliver the event safely, how can we symbolically still bring people together, and how do we continue to drive resources for this population who desperately needs that help.”
The plan is to still hold the bike rides, walks, and runs. The bike rides offer three routes through Philadelphia, covering 10, 30, and 50 miles. The 5K run will start at Lincoln Financial Field, go through surrounding neighborhoods, and return to the stadium. A sensory walk, which provides a shorter course than the 5K, also will start and end at Lincoln Financial Field.
One of the most-memorable moments is when people finish at the 50-yard line and see themselves on the video screen before Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie makes his remarks.
“The fact that this is so personal to him, and he’s been inspired to help so many families, and what it means to him, I feel like for me that’s the best part of the weekend,” Hammond said. “You really feel a part of the organization in a meaningful way.”
The rides, runs, and walk will feature staggered start times to spread out participants. The finish line is being moved to the perimeter of the field.
If the challenge can’t happen in person, plans are in place to make the entire event virtual.