Due to COVID-19 gathering guidelines, it’s been nearly a year since sporting events have been able to enjoy regular attendance. As a result, some diehard fans have purchased cutouts of themselves to be installed at baseball and football stadiums. One team used net proceeds from this to put more than a quarter of a million dollars toward a worthy cause.
The Philadelphia Eagles have announced that the cutouts installed at the team’s Lincoln Financial Field during the 2020 season raised $260,000 for the Eagles Autism Foundation. According to the team, this allowed the foundation to surpass $10,000,000 in donations since it first began.
Ryan Hammond, the foundation’s executive director, says, “While we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we were all together in spirit thanks to this fun and creative program that truly represented the very best of Eagles fans everywhere. Eagles fans bring so much energy and passion to Lincoln Financial Field on game days, and that was something our team definitely missed this season. So to honor them, we wanted to provide an opportunity that not only recognized them in a special way, but thanked them for their year-round support.”
He added that the turnout among cutout fans is a testament to how the community has rallied around the foundation’s work, which includes funding innovative research, striving for scientific breakthroughs, providing critical resources, and pushing awareness into action. Money donated to the foundation has also been used as grants for 25 research and community projects. Additional projects will be funded from the more than $3.1 million total raised in 2020.
The cutouts were scattered in different spots throughout the stadium, with unique themes for some groups. Those included healthcare heroes, pets of players and coaches, Eagles legends, and famous Eagles fans. More than 4.900 cutouts popped up throughout the year.
The team hopes the fundraising won’t stop there. The 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge is planned for May and should go ahead as long as health measures are followed. That event includes three cycling routes and a 5k run/walk. All proceeds will go to institutions doing important research and those that provide care.
The challenge’s website reads, “Today, millions of people around the world are connected to autism. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 54 people under 21 living in the United States are on the autism spectrum, making it the fastest-growing developmental disorder. For Eagles owner and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, it is personal. With autism in his own family, Lurie knows his is just one of many families dealing with this condition and has seen firsthand the difference the right resources can make.”
The Eagles strive to ensure game day is fun and calming for those with autism, as well. They were one of the first teams to install a sensory room at their stadium. Employees were properly trained on sensory inclusive procedures prior to the opening. The room includes bags with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads.
When it opened in 2019, CEO Jeffrey Lurie said, “We made it an organizational priority to create a one-of-a-kind experience for guests in a safe, friendly and inclusive environment. It is truly heartwarming to know that this state-of-the-art sensory room will now provide a sense of ease and comfort for families and loved ones who may be experiencing sensory challenges at Lincoln Financial Field.”
For more information on the Eagles’ autism outreach, click here.Whizzco