Witten by Alex Felmeister
Photos by Jason Giordano
Being on the Philly Bike Expo Squad this year, I fully expected to step up my participation in cycling events in 2020. Like everyone else, I am pretty disappointed my regular events, clubs rides, and planned new adventures have been postponed or canceled. One particular event, extra close to my heart, is the Eagles Autism Challenge. This event is a new event only its third year and includes 50, 30, and 15 mile rides, a 5k race and a sensory walk. No matter how you participate, you end your ride, run, or walk at a huge finish line party on the field of Lincoln Financial Stadium. It’s not just a great 50 mile ride for me, but it is a magical event that is uniquely Philadelphia; when you see this diverse city come together for one cause in a beautiful way around our beloved Eagles. I selfishly anticipate the reveal of the cycling jersey for the ride. If you pledge and raise enough money, you get one of three special limited-edition jerseys based on your fundraising goals from Primal, a Philly Bike Expo exhibitor! This year I blew away my fundraising goal raising over $5,000, so I was really looking forward to this year’s ride to represent this accomplishment in an All-Pro Plus Jersey from the Eagles. Riding and running for charity is a great way to engage in your sport and feel like you are making a difference. I personally like events that have local impact, so this one has become one of my favorites. Philanthropy is one of the only ways to make a substantial impact and raise awareness for complex issues like autism.
I ride for Team CHOP. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (fondly known locally as CHOP) cares for more than 10,000 patients with autism each year in almost every clinical area, and teams from CHOP’s Center for Autism Research and Autism Integrated Care Program include rehabilitation therapists, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, geneticists, psychiatrists, advance practice nurses, social workers and many others. These folks have led breakthroughs for children and families, from making earlier diagnosis possible to improving therapies and access to services. It is an honor to ride for them and raise money for them.
In 2019, the Eagles Autism Challenge funded competitive research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), The University of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson University. They have also awarded two post doctoral fellowships; one at CHOP and one at Temple University, and this means that two new scientists are getting their research funded here in Philadelphia at their respective institutions. This type of direct impact on the local research community means access to opportunity for new researchers and for much needed attention brought to this issue that affects so many local families. The Eagles Autism Foundation has also funded programs through community grants that directly impact Philadelphia communities. This organization has also engaged participants and fundraisers in generous ways. I had the opportunity last year to attend the recent Eagles/Dallas game and see first-hand the generosity of fans and prominence of this foundation throughout the game thanks to tickets I won at the Philly Bike Expo last year!
Yesterday, Saturday May 16th, would have been the ride. I put on my Primal jersey and hit the roads in honor of cycling and the cause this event supports.
Go Team CHOP! Go Birds!
PS: A special heart-felt shout out to families at home taking care of their kids and loved ones affected by autism during this time of isolation. I ride and raise money for you.