Newswise — In May 2018, Philadelphia Eagles Chair and CEO Jeffrey Lurie championed a new signature fundraising event, the Eagles Autism Challenge, to raise funds for innovative autism research and programs, all in an effort to create a major shift from autism awareness to action.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 59 people under the age of 21 living in the United States are on the autism spectrum. Autism is a complex neurological and developmental condition that expresses itself differently in each individual. While it has become one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, it has historically been underfunded, misunderstood, and under-researched.
Through the Eagles Autism Challenge, Lurie is committed to providing the necessary resources to doctors and scientists at leading institutions so that everyone currently affected by autism, as well as future generations, can benefit. To assist him in these efforts, Lurie appointed a professor of neuroscience and cell biology and pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to serve as the lead scientific advisor of the Eagles Autism Challenge peer review panel.
Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, MD, a highly accomplished expert on autism with extensive grant-making experience, developed and guided a fair, but rigorous grant-making process. Dr. DiCicco-Bloom assembled a scientific advisory board to independently evaluate and approve each proposal. Thanks to the $2.5 million raised by the Eagles Autism Challenge in 2018, a total of eight research projects received grant funding. The funding process for the $3.5 million raised in 2019 is currently underway and will award institutions with grants in early 2020.
“We received great proposals,” says Dr. DiCicco-Bloom. “There were programs that will move into the community to help those affected integrate better and receive a better education. And, there are programs that are looking for biomarkers—an objective, biological measure that we can use to help us understand what might be different about the brain in a person with autism.”
The Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group, which consists of three cycling routes, a 5K run/walk and sensory walk, has raised more than $7 million in its first two years. The 3,600-plus participants in 2019 included Eagles players, coaches, team legends, ownership, executive leadership and support staff, cheerleaders and mascot SWOOP. One hundred percent of participant-raised funds from the team’s signature cycling and 5K run/walk event benefit institutions conducting cutting-edge autism research and programs.
“With the collaboration of an outstanding community of peer reviewers, we are confident that the Eagles Autism Challenge will make a significant impact on the lives of those affected by autism, now and into the future,” says Dr. DiCicco-Bloom.
The third annual Eagles Autism Challenge has been set for Saturday, May 16, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field. To learn more or to register as a cyclist, runner, walker or virtual participant, please visit www.eaglesautismchallenge.com.