Actor Holly Robinson Peete and husband Rodney Peete, a former Eagles quarterback, know firsthand the importance of creating awareness about Parkinson’s disease and autism.

Robinson Peete’s HollyRod Foundation was created in 1997 to support families impacted by Parkinson’s. Years later, the family was in a similar situation when their son, Rodney Jr., was diagnosed with autism. That expanded the mission of the foundation to what it is today.

“We’ve been really blessed to do this work with HollyRod going on 23 years,” Robinson Peete says. “It’s really been gratifying.”

The Peetes joined Inquirer Live at Lunch on Tuesday to discuss the HollyRod Foundation, life during the quarantine, and their Philly memories. Robinson Peete is best known for her TV roles in 21 Jump Street, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and For Your Love.

The couple stressed the importance of hiring people with autism. Through the HollyRod Foundation, the Peetes do a lot of job placements and training. Autism impacts the nervous system and can affect speech, nonverbal communication, and social skills. But the Peetes have seen how effective those with autism can be as workers.

“If you’re ever considering hiring someone with autism, please do, because they can be your most amazing employee,” Robinson Peete said.

Her son worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers before the pandemic caused him to be laid off. Robinson Peete said the job gave him purpose and joy.

Discrimination can also affect an autistic child, and the Peetes have discussed that with Rodney Jr.

“We all know as Black parents we have to give our kids that talk, that conversation,” Robinson Peete said.

“You have to have those conversations on a regular basis,” Peete added. “You want to reinforce it every time they leave the house, because you never know.”

Peete says Eagles should win division

While the Peetes live in Los Angeles, they’ve spent a lot of time in Philadelphia and still have love for the Philly sports teams. Peete was an Eagles quarterback from 1995 through 98, and Robinson Peete grew up in Philadelphia. She and her family were die-hard Eagles fans and loved watching former 76ers star Julius Erving.

Peete said he is “optimistic” that the NFL will have a football season, adding that the Eagles could win the NFC East.

“I will say, that division is going to be wide open,” Peete said. “I think Carson Wentz doesn’t get enough credit for what he did last year. He put that team on his back basically, with no help and all the injuries that they had.”

While the reaction to the arrival of rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts was mixed from fans and the media, Peete supported it. He spent part of his career as a backup quarterback who often filled in when the starter went down. It’s partly why he played 14 seasons.

“You have to have a backup quarterback,” Peete said. “How many times have we seen a team lose their quarterback and, all of a sudden, the season is over? Philly’s been fortunate that way, too, because they had Nick Foles when Carson went down and went on to win the Super Bowl.”