Updated: Aug 4
Philadelphia Eagles football has been a big part of my life since I was nine years old. I grew up 600 miles away in Knoxville, TN, a long way from Philadelphia, but that has not stopped me from rooting for the Birds. The way I became an Eagles fan was because, for some reason, my family would get the merchandise catalog in the mail; it was Andy Reid's first season and the year the team drafted Donovan McNabb. I also remember for my ninth birthday, my grandmother got me a uniform set with a replica helmet, jersey, pants, and shoulder pads that came with it, and it was Torrance Smith's number 80 on it. That was when my loyalty to the Eagles became set in stone.
I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when I was seven years old, but I did not exactly know I had Asperger's until I was in middle school. Back in 2018 when I saw on the Eagles website that they were creating the Eagles Autism Challenge, I was excited that the team I love was working on something that affects me personally; it made me love them even more (which I didn't even know was possible).
I went through the adversity of being told that I could not graduate high school with a regular education diploma, and I did. I compare all of that adversity to the adversities this team has faced. They fell short of bringing home the Lombardi Trophy in 1980 and 2004, and Eagles fans had to hear from other fan bases (especially Cowboys fans) that they would never win a Super Bowl. Well, the Birds finally brought it back to Philadelphia in the 2017 season, and I earned my regular education diploma. The Eagles and I silenced all of our doubters.
Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie began this journey with the Eagles Autism Challenge because the disorder is present in his family, and he wanted to help bring awareness to the families that are in need of real help trying to overcome the disorder. Personally, I have the perfect family support of my struggles with Asperger's, especially my parents and my brother. Lurie also thought to himself that how could leverage the Eagles brand and bring people together? This quickly led to the creation of the Eagles Autism Challenge.
In just two years, the Eagles Autism Challenge has raised over $6 Million. Every Eagles fan should do everything in their power to attend this amazing event, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 16th, 2020. If you can not attend the event, then I strongly recommend donating to one of the team's participating or directly to the organization.
This fundraiser has touched me not just as an Eagles fan, but as a person that is mildly on the spectrum. People with autism want to fit in like everyone else and want to attend games at The Linc like everyone else and want to play the game like Carson Wentz and maybe coach like Doug Pederson. They just need to be given a chance by people who need to provide them with the opportunity really need to be educated. This team's fundraiser is the first step towards making all of that a reality for the millions of people affected by autism.