It’s on, the autism challenge that is

A fractured foot won’t keep Kennett Square resident Kris Smith from participating in the May 18 Eagles Autism Challenge.

Despite fracturing her foot in three places while hiking in October, Smith is determined to do the 5K walk at the event with her team from Health Mats — a Chester-based company owned by Chadds Ford resident Vince Del Rossi. Among other things, the challenge provides laundered mats for the Philadelphia Eagles at the stadium and the NovaCare complex.

“I think of myself in training right now,” said Smith, the marketing manager for Health Mats. “I’m in physical therapy and hoping that by May I’ll be able to do the 5K.”

Health Mats, which is a sponsor for the event, is looking for others who want to join their team and raise money for autism research. The Eagles Autism Challenge offers participants a chance to run, walk, or bike in its second annual fundraising event.

There is also a sensory walk for participants with sensory challenges.

“At the Eagles, we take our responsibility to the community very seriously and look for how best to leverage our brand and ability to bring people together in order to drive crucial resources and funding to autism,” according to the Eagles Autism Challenge website. “We want to give a voice to families who live with autism – the ones who are out there every day advocating, promoting, supporting and seeking out opportunities for their loved ones.”

In its inaugural year, the event raised more than $2 million and attracted thousands of participants.

To join Team Health Mats, participants must raise a minimum of $350.

“The sooner people join our team, the longer they’ll have to raise money,” Smith said.

The team has raised more than $1,900 to date and is hoping to surpass the $6,613 it raised in 2018.

“This event is a great opportunity to support research that will benefit individuals and families affected by autism,” said Health Mats President Vince Del Rossi in a press release.

Last year Smith, Del Rossi, and three other team members participated.

There is a kickoff party at Lincoln Financial Field the night before the event, Smith said, and breakfast and lunch for the participants.

“The walk itself was a lot of fun,” Smith said.

Health Mats, which began 50 years ago as a diaper-cleaning service, provides freshly cleaned mats to organizations throughout the region. Smith explained that their customers rent mats from Health Mats that are replaced on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.

How to get involved

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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