6th Annual Huddle Up for Autism at Lincoln Financial Field Raises More than $40K for Center for Autism Research at CHOP

The free, family-friendly event for families affected by autism featured special Eagles appearances, live entertainment, games and exclusive locker room tours

Published on in CHOP News

Huddle Up for Autism Eagles Cornerback #32 Eric Rowe poses with two young guests at the Eagles and CHOP’s 2016 Huddle Up for Autism at Lincoln Financial Field. On Sunday, April 17, Lincoln Financial Field was transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere designed specifically with the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum in mind. The 6th annual Huddle Up for Autism, hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was open to children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their friends and family members and attracted more than 3,000 guests. The sold-out event was free of charge to families and raised more than $40,000 for the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I would like to sincerely thank all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors and most importantly, the thousands of guests who came out to make Huddle Up for Autism the enjoyable experience that it was,” said Christina Weiss Lurie, president, Eagles Charitable Foundation, Eagles Social Responsibility. “The fun-filled afternoon would not have been possible without the Center for Autism Research at CHOP’s dedicated commitment and preparation to this most important cause. We are proud that the funds raised at Huddle Up will contribute to CAR’s innovative and ground-breaking research in the field of autism.”

Families were invited to explore the stadium locker rooms, run drills with Eagles players and members of the Temple Football team, run through the Eagles “helmet tunnel,” kick a field goal, and play a giant game of inflatable life-sized bowling on the field. Sensory stations and quiet rooms were made available to families who needed a break from the action, and child specialists from CAR were on hand to lend assistance when needed.

“It can be hard for people on the autism spectrum to enjoy a regular game day at the stadium. The noise, crowds and excitement can be overwhelming. So when the Eagles offered the opportunity to create an event that would allow fans on the autism spectrum to meet some of the players, cheerleaders and SWOOP, as well as roam the stadium in a supportive environment, all while learning about resources and research, we were pleased to help them design it,” said Robert T. Schultz, PhD, director of the Center for Autism Research at CHOP. “We’re grateful for the Eagles’ ongoing commitment to supporting CAR’s mission to find the causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders, educating families, and training professionals in the field.”

In addition to fun and games, the event provided an opportunity for families to learn about resources and research opportunities with CAR, and to speak with some of the nation’s foremost autism specialists and researchers. The Eagles are committed to supporting cutting-edge autism research that will provide answers and guidance for families of children with ASD. In order to make breakthrough discoveries in autism, children and adults are needed to join autism research studies, even if they do not have autism.

The Pennsylvania Autism Census Update reports that 55,000 individuals in the state are currently receiving medical services for a form of ASD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there may be upward of 130,000 additional Pennsylvania residents living with autism who have gone undiagnosed and therefore, were left out of the reported total. This confirms the notion that autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, as it affects 1in 68 children and is diagnosed 4.5 times more often in boys than in girls. 

A growing body of research shows that the earlier children are diagnosed with autism and begin accessing services, the better their outcomes later in life. CAR is conducting research to discover the earliest “biomarker” or signs of autism as well as developing novel treatments and therapies, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life for people with ASD not just in childhood, but over the course of a lifetime.

The Eagles and CHOP encourage interested volunteers to sign up for autismMatch.org, a directory matching families to research studies in our region. For more information on studies, resources and workshops for families at CAR, please visit the Center for Autism Research (CAR) and the CAR Autism Roadmap websites.

About The Center for Autism Research

The Center for Autism Research (CAR) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one of the nation’s leading centers for autism research and outreach to families. CAR’s mission is to make rapid progress in understanding the underlying causes of autism spectrum disorder, with the ultimate goal of discovering treatments which will make a difference for families living with autism. CAR’s multidisciplinary teams in psychology, neurosciences and genetics are spearheading the largest and most innovative autism studies ever conceived and applying state-of-the-art research and clinical tools to unlock the mysteries of autism. For more information, please visit www.CenterforAutismResearch.org.