Team Spotlight

In our Team Spotlight series, we’re highlighting some of our most experienced fundraisers. Every week a team captain will share their motivation, experience, and advice for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge.

Week of Tuesday, August 11th

Team Artemis
Team Name: Team Artemis
Team Captain: Peter Dinoris

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? My daughter, Leah Dinoris, a non-verbal autistic teenager was the inspiration and motivation to be involved with the Eagles Autism Challenge. Leah has had substantial complications during her life and has blossomed into a very happy and loving teenager. Much of Leah’s improvement is due to our learnings from research conducted in the USA.

What does this event mean to you? Philadelphia will forever have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with the city and the NFL team. Amazingly the Philadelphia Eagles support autism research through the Eagles Autism Foundation where millions are raised each year. It was fate.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? Do not hesitate – register now and raise as much as you can – it all adds up for much-needed research into autism.

Do you have any fundraising tips? What we have discovered is that you should contact every single person you have ever encountered and seek their generosity in donating to this wonderful and much-needed cause. You will be surprised with who donates. Do not discount the generosity of people. Also use social media as much as possible!

Week of Tuesday, August 4th

Team-Jaiden
Team Name: #TeamJaiden
Team Captain: Dawn Sites

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? My son Jaiden was diagnosed with autism when he was five and in Kindergarten. He was also diagnosed with ADHD when he was four so it has been a difficult journey between therapists and medications.

What does this event mean to you? I first heard of the organization in 2018 and loved the mission statement that the organization presented. It also gave back to the community. I attended my first Huddle up for Autism last year also. The atmosphere and the gratitude that everyone presented was wonderful, for once I did not have to hear anything negative.

What’s your favorite memory from the Eagles Autism Challenge? At the time of the event, my son was hospitalized for medication management and he was so upset that he missed it and it broke my heart. Both my daughter and I participated in honor of her brother. The event was a wonderful experience to get away from the everyday negativity of the world. This was my first real chance to see firsthand how the Eagles organization put forth so much effort into raising funds for autism. Because my son couldn’t participate I started crying and I was told that we are all in this together. You’re part of the Eagles family and for the first time, I did not feel alone. We cannot wait for this year’s event!

Week of Tuesday, July 21st

bryce
Team Name: Bryce’s Ballers
Team Captain: Ben Holland

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? Our son Bryce, who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at age 2. In addition, Bryce’s cousin Rose, who is a few years older than Bryce, is also on the spectrum. Lastly, Bryce’s middle name is Matthew, named in memory of his late cousin Matthew who passed away at a young age due to complications related to having severe autism. Strong family ties and understanding what other families are going through makes us highly motivated to raise money autism.

What does this event mean to you? To see the Eagles involved in a cause so important to us is amazing. Seeing players we look up to on Sundays participating to raise money is awesome. Most importantly, the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for autism means a ton knowing the funds will help support initiatives such as research studies to increase our overall understanding of autism.

What made you get involved in this event? We have been involved with other fundraisers in the past, and this one especially feels ever so important yet special to us. Just knowing that our favorite sports team is involved in a cause so close to our hearts makes this such a wonderful event, uniting passions of ours to raise significant funding to support research and care for autism.

Do you have any fundraising tips? Diversify. Certainly, social media can generate a lot of awareness and fundraising money, but not everyone is on certain social media sites. Email folks – family, friends who you may not be connecting to on social media. Many companies will match fundraising efforts, for example, dollar-for-dollar up to a certain amount.

Week of Tuesday, July 7th

Fudgey’s Buddies
Team Name: Fudgey’s Buddies
Team Captain: Marina Edwards

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? Our motivation for participating is our son, Patrick, affectionately known as Fudgey Buddy. He was diagnosed with Autism just before his second birthday. He has overcome many obstacles and works hard every day to overcome issues and teach us how to be better parents and human beings. He is so affectionate, loving, smart, and intuitive. His sister is one of his biggest cheerleaders, constantly helping with his various therapies, and modeling the strategies we use with him.

What does this event mean to you? This event to us means not just awareness, but inclusion, and commitment to research and resources for patients and families.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? For someone who is deciding whether or not to register, I would say just do it! Autistic people do not get the chance to decide to be autistic or not, so jump on the bandwagon and join in the fun, while raising money for a very worthy cause!

Do you have any fundraising tips? Fundraising tips we recommend are in lieu of birthday or Christmas gifts, please donate. We also like to challenge each other to see who can raise more.

Week of Tuesday, June 23rd

mso
Team Name: Grant’s Gladiators
Team Captain: Paul Rokuskie

Our oldest son Grant was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 4 and is now 18. We have been involved with the Autism community in the Philadelphia region since his diagnosis and are proud to be part of the Eagles Autism Challenge.

What does this event mean to you? This event is a great opportunity for families to participate together. With the different biking courses, 5K run/walk, Sensory Walk and virtual participant, all levels of skills can participate.

As a past participant, what is your favorite part of event day? I have two: being at the starting line with the players greeting and personally thanking the riders and then crossing the finish line at midfield. Such a unique experience.

Do you have any fundraising tips? We do several recurring events each year including our 11th Annual Flapjack Fundraiser and 7th Annual Bake Sale this year. Putting your efforts into a few consistent events will bring better financial returns.

Week of Tuesday, June 16th

molly-team
Team Name: Jackaroo
Team Captain: Molly Dagit

Who or what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? Our son Jack was diagnosed with autism at 8 years old, although he has struggled with various developmental and learning delays since birth. Despite all of the challenges he has been through he has managed to overcome his obstacles with support from family and friends, and the tremendous support from therapists and teachers. Jack is also one of the biggest Eagles fans around and what better way to support the team we love as well as donate to a cause near and dear to our hearts? We know that the Eagles are doing a tremendous service to the autism community and we are so happy to be a part of this special event every year.

What does this event mean to you? We are strong supporters for autism research and we love that 100% of the event’s proceeds go to research and to support the autism community.

As a past participant, what is your favorite part of event day? We love the energy and positivity that everyone brings, and knowing that you are alongside others that are fighting the same battles. And getting to cross the finish line at the 50-yard line is pretty cool too, as well as meeting some of the players!

Do you have any fundraising tips? Don’t be afraid to use the power of social media to reach out and ask for donations. Your message can reach far more people than you think!

Week of Tuesday, June 9th

Team Zachary
Team Name: Fly Zachary Fly
Team Captain: Zachary Neuin & Kristin Stockbower

Explain your team name, Team Fly Zachary Fly. Zachary is the child with autism. He is 14 years old. His team consists of me (his mom) and our good friend who is also an autistic support teacher.

What does this event mean to you? We all enjoy the event because we are passionate about helping bring support and awareness to the autism community and we are all huge fans of the Eagles!!

As a past participant, what is your favorite part of race day? Zachary was so excited to meet Carson Wentz in person before the closing ceremony. We can’t get over how much care is given to the participants at each part of the event. There is always access to healthy and delicious food choices, as well as favorites for people on the spectrum.

Do you have any fundraising tips? We all strive to hit the All-Pro level or higher. We have partnered with vendors to do donations and taking advantage of the matching gift programs. We also did a raffle this year to raffle to attend another event with us.

Week of Tuesday, June 2nd

Wilson Family
Team Name: Wilson
Team Captain: Peg Wilson

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge?
My daughter Caitlin is on the spectrum and we have several children in our family who are on various levels of the autism spectrum. We have participated in a lot of walks over the years to show our support and raise awareness, but Caitlin wanted to do this one since the first year. She’s a huge Eagles fan and it really means a lot to her that HER team supports her in this way. We celebrate Caitlin’s differences and now so do the Eagles!

What does this event mean to you? This event brings the community together and with such high profile support from the Eagles it brings more awareness and support. This research is so important to getting to the root of what causes autism and help those families who have been impacted.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event?
First I’d say WHY NOT? It’s a great community event for a great cause. This is our first year but we have heard so many great stories from this event that we can’t wait to experience it.

Do you have any fundraising tips? Just ask. People are more willing to give to a great cause than you think. If you are passionate about the mission people will support you. Ask local businesses to sponsor you and use social media to your advantage.

Week of Tuesday, May 26th

franco
Team Name: Franco
Team Captain: Frank and Dana Buttaro

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge?
Our son Franco is our true motivation for participating in the EAC. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2 ½ and he is now almost 7. Franco has overcome so many obstacles and still does to this day. He has had years of different therapy, ABA, and is now in a mainstream kindergarten classroom. Needless to say Franco is our true hero and amazes us every day.

What does this event mean to you? This is our third year participating in the EAC and we believe in spreading awareness every chance we get.  It is so important that the world learns about Autism and what it really means.  In our eyes, the Eagles Autism Challenge has come together in building a united family, and support for one another.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event?
Being a part of the Eagles Autism Challenge isn’t just raising money for a good cause. It’s about family, support and truly understanding what someone with autism lives with every day.

Do you have any fundraising tips? Get creative, and have fun!!  My husband had the brilliant idea or starting a football box pool. We get family and friends involved and all proceeds go towards our fundraising goals.  It has been so wonderful to have so many people come together and show their support for us and most importantly Franco.  The first year we decided to sell hot dogs to raise money!  I look at how far we’ve come and the people we have met along the way. It’s truly amazing, and something to definitely experience firsthand!

Week of Tuesday, May 19th

domie
Team Name: Dommie
Team Captain: Nicole Bottino

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge?
Our motivation to participate in the Eagles Autism Challenge is my daughter, Dominique. She works so hard for everything she does and every skill she attains – usually with a smile on her face and driven by the determination to reach her goal to get her reward. That is what inspires me to do what I can to support efforts that will help shape her future.

Where/how did you hear about the event? I heard about the Eagles Autism Challenge through social media and friends that have participated in the past. We were excited to be able to start Team Dommie this year.

Have you participated in other Eagles Autism Foundation events?
We have participated in many events through the Eagles Autism Foundation and Eagles Kids Club. Our first event was Huddle Up For Autism a few years ago. Since the Huddle Up events were so fun and welcoming for Dominique, we decided to try the Philadelphia Orchestra Performance at the NovaCare Complex. We know Dominique loves music, but we weren’t sure how she would do at a live orchestra performance. We did know this was the perfect environment to try. We trusted the Eagles Autism Foundation and knew they would have everything in place to make sure she had the resources she needed to enjoy the event. She LOVED it. It was also relaxing for us knowing that we were in a place where she could enjoy it her way!

Since then, we have also attended a Halloween party at the Linc and a Cheer Clinic with the Eagles Cheerleaders. These weren’t Autism events, but the Eagles Autism Foundation made sure that there were supports in place if we needed them. Whether we need an escape to the sensory room, a fidget toy to wait our turn or just a little bit of patience from staff as we take a little extra time to do things, we always know they have our back.

Do you have any fundraising tips? This is our first year participating but we have learned a lot just through the tips and videos put out by the organization. Listening to things that have worked for other teams has also really helped along with social media. Each time I share a post with our team link I like to share a story about Dominique. I think it helps to let people know just how personal this cause really is and how it can directly make an impact.

Week of Tuesday, May 12th

Echo Boy
Team Name: Echo Boy
Team Captain: Chante Douglas

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge?
My son Levi, who is on the autism spectrum, is the most amazing kid on the planet and motivates me to be a better person each and every day. He continues to make me proud as his mom.

What does this event mean to you? I have loved this team since I was my son’s age and to know how much they support a cause that means the world to me as well as my son only makes me appreciate and love this team even more. Best organization in the league!

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event?
Don’t let the registration fee and the mandatory fundraising goal stop you from enjoying this wonderful event. Some good tips are to use is social media to your advantage! I asked everyone to donate $7 to our fundraising goal around Levi’s birthday and that helped a lot to push towards our goal. Remember small amounts add up!

What is your favorite part during event day? My favorite part of the event is definitely the sensory walk. Love the fact this it’s nice and quiet and my son can just enjoy himself. My son’s favorite part is definitely the kids’ activities and the food.

Week of Tuesday, May 5th

dawgs
Team Name: Hungry Dogs
Team Captain: Anthony Giordano

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? My main motivation is my son Vincent. He was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He is now five years old and is making tremendous strides. For me, it is easy motivation to help out and donate for the Eagles autism awareness. Autism has affected our home directly and any way that I can help the cause while spreading awareness we are in!

What does this event mean to you? The event to me means everything. I am so happy to be a part of everything that the Eagles are doing. Before our son was put on the autism spectrum, this is a world that I really didn’t know existed. This event is the biggest event in the Philadelphia area to spread awareness for autism. The more that people gain knowledge about autism, the better things will be for people that are on the spectrum moving forward.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? My response would be, absolutely, you should register! Odds are that if you are not directly affected by autism someone in your family or friends is. By registering for this event you are not only helping them but you are helping spread awareness, which in my opinion is key moving forward.

Do you have any fundraising tips? The only tip that I could really give other teams would be to link up with local businesses. We did multiple events this year with local businesses and it really helps to raise money while getting the message out. Small businesses are usually looking for ways to help out our community.

Week of Tuesday, April 28th

team-tylerc
Team Name: #TeamTylerC
Team Captain: Stephanie Stricker

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? My son, Tyler, is my inspiration to participate in EAC. He was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 3. I needed a positive outlet to be involved with, find a support system, and help make a difference in the autism community. Tyler, will always be my why and the Philadelphia Eagles combined with autism awareness is a win for everyone.

What does this event mean to you? The event gives me a sense of hope. I hope for the future of children and adults who have an autism diagnosis. The work that is being done in Philadelphia is cutting edge and I cannot wait to see how they make a difference not only locally but on a national scale too.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? Do it! You will not regret being involved in the Eagles Autism Challenge. Being a part of EAC for 3 years now has changed our lives for the better. You will make friends and find a support system you did not know you needed. And more importantly, it’s fun! It is truly an unforgettable experience each and every year!

Who’s your favorite Philadelphia Eagles player? Carson Wentz and Jason Kelce. Carson helped motivate us to even start doing EAC because he is Tyler’s favorite player. And while Tyler is still learning about football, he always looks for number 11 on the field. And my other son loves Jason Kelce and thinks it’s fun to see him and Carson Wentz be teammates and work closely together.

Week of Tuesday, April 21st

oseh
Team Name: Michael Man
Team Captain: Michelle O’Shea

As a past participant, what is your favorite part of race day?
My favorite part of race day is the atmosphere. It’s really inspiring to know our team is part of this. We are helping to make a difference. As a parent of a child with autism, it gave me a chance to meet more families like mine. Where people who are in my shoes all want the same thing, to raise awareness for autism.

What does this event mean to you? The Eagles Autism Challenge allows us a day to forget about the therapies, ignore the worries of IEP meetings, and to not let goals stress us. It gives us a day to celebrate our son [Michael], and the successes he has made. It gives us a chance to honor him.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event?
We encourage everyone to participate. It’s a day to raise awareness and money for a good cause. You have access to Lincoln Financial Field, interactions with players and coaches. Anyone who is an Eagles fan would be impressed and wowed! It’s a day for the whole family.

Do you have any fundraising tips?
We like to share our own personal story as much as possible. It helps when you open your heart. It allows us to be open and honest with family and friends about Michael. Michael is a diehard Eagles fan so we let that be a huge part of sharing our team page too. We love to share pictures of him. Chances are he is always rocking an eagles hat!

Week of Tuesday, April 14th

annie
Team Name: All In For Aidan
Team Captain: Annie Bobbe

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? We participate in EAC in honor of my son Aidan, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was in 2nd grade. This event provides us an opportunity to celebrate his abilities and uniqueness. Additionally, it gives him an opportunity to be among peers.

What does this event mean to you? It’s a chance for those diagnosed and their family and friends to come together, share stories, and offer inspiration. It is a heartwarming feeling to see a large group of people all dedicated to the same cause, championing for research to better the lives of those impacted.

As a past participant, what is your favorite part of race day? I love being at the starting line for each wave, cheering everybody on. The looks on the faces of fans is just priceless, being so up close and personal to people they typically only see on the field.

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? If you do your research, you will find that most other groups raising money for autism are only spending pennies on the dollar on actual research. EVERY. SINGLE. CENT. From EAC goes toward research which is so critical when it comes to unlocking the mystery of autism.

Week of Tuesday, April 7th

Swoop.Boys
Team Name: Jack Ryan
Team Captain: Victor Ykoruk

Who/what is your motivation for participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge? Our 10-year-old twin boys Jack & Ryan are both on the spectrum. Additionally, we have come to know many other kind souls that are in some way affected by this diagnosis, so we do this for them as well.

What does this event mean to you? We are proud that our favorite hometown team cares so deeply about making a difference! Additionally, the EAC is such a fun way to raise both funds & awareness!

What would you tell someone who is deciding whether or not to register for the event? I would say that I know first hand how the funds are allocated among the benefactors and that this race is ultra professional behind the scenes. Additionally, race day is simply amazing, especially crossing the finish line & being able to celebrate on the field where our own Philadelphia Eagles compete. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Do you have any fundraising tips? Use what you got to get what you want. Don’t be afraid to utilize social media to garner some attention to your specific team and this great cause. And never ever forget the compassion that your family & friends will show you…thank them as much as you possibly can!

Make sure to check back each week.