PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- In 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles took home their first Lombardi Trophy. Later that year, the inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge was launched. And by 2019, the Eagles Autism Foundation was formally established.
"We've raised about $20 million, which is all being invested in the community," said Executive Director Ryan Hammond.
One of their major accomplishments was establishing a sensory room in Lincoln Financial Field in partnership with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Kulture City, a nonprofit that specializes in sensory modifications at similar venues. The space is outfitted with interactive items that can help people take a break from the noise and keep calm without having to leave the stadium.
But Hammond said that not every sports venue in the country has that kind of space.
"In fact, as we head to State Farm Stadium, they're actually building the sensory room as we speak," she said. "And just like we tapped into our partnership with Kulture City to open the sensory room at Lincoln Financial Field, we're working with them out at the Super Bowl."
One of the Eagles Autism Foundation's key contributions is shipping items to be included in sensory bags similar to those offered at Eagles home games. Fidget toys, 'Swoop' mascot dolls, and noise-canceling headphones can make all the difference for individuals on the autism spectrum.
15-year-old Max Hershman knows this well. The teen from Media, Pennsylvania, has worked with the Eagles Autism Foundation in the past as the host of a digital show, "Sensory Saturdays with Max." He is also a superfan of the Eagles and a strong advocate for inclusivity.
Hershman will be traveling with the Eagles Autism Foundation to Arizona ahead of the Super Bowl next week. There, he will be a boots-on-the-ground ambassador, promoting the kinds of programs and accommodations that level the playing field for all fans.
"I'm going to be like a helper for when people are down or sad or any bad emotion," he said. "I just give them a toy so that can help them feel better."
Hershman will get a chance to interview players and even cut the ribbon on a separate new sensory room at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He is also looking forward to touring the sensory room at State Farm Stadium.
And if his predictions are correct, Hershman will have more to look forward to when returning to Philadelphia.
"We're going to have a parade when we come back," he said.
To learn more about the Eagles Autism Foundation, visit their website.
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