By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles Youth Partnership Exec. Dir. Sarah Martinez-Helfman holds the Beyond Sport Team of the Year Award at the ceremony in South Africa.
(Photo courtesy philadelphiaeagles.com)
While winning a Super Bowl is the highest goal for the Philadelphia Eagles franchise, being champions in the community for their off-the-field contributions is equally as important.
For their participation in a variety of community service activities, Beyond Sport, an international organization dedicated to social change through athletics, named the Philadelphia Eagles its Global Sports Team of the Year.
This is the second time that the team has been recognized for its off-field activities by Beyond Sports. Nick Keller, the organization’s CEO, said the wide-range of community outreach projects that the Eagles participate in made them the obvious choice for this year’s award.
“The Philadelphia Eagles social inclusion, education, and sustainability efforts triggered the Beyond Sport Award Judges to acknowledge that this NFL team is setting the standard when it comes to social impact, paving the way for other teams around the globe to do the same,” Keller said.
Sarah Martinez- Helfman, the director of the Eagles Youth Partnership, said the award is about the team and the community of fans pulling together to help those in need. She said that is something that Jeffrey Lurie has been dedicated from the first day he bought the team.
“When the Luries bought the team they recognized the passion of the fan base and they really thought right from the beginning that they could tap into that passion and add to the mix the resources of the team, the star power of the team, the resources of its partners and really do something special for the community and they have not wavered,” Martinez-Helfman said.
“While clearly the focus of the team is winning championships, the team recognizes the passion of the fans wants to pay it back. It wants to pay it in our neighborhoods and the possibilities for our children to reach their potential.”
The Eagles were nominated for the award based on the team’s Youth Partnership Program, which provides mobile eye care, reading and mentoring programs to more than 50,000 children throughout the year. Among the projects the team does throughout the year is the annual playground build, which unites players, coaches and team management to build a playground and fix up a school in one of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
The Eagles were also nominated for Tackling Breast Cancer, an annual program that has raised more than $1.6 million for cancer research and for Go Green, which encourages finding alternative energy sources and recycling.
“For more than 75 years, the Eagles have been an important part of Philadelphia,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a press release. “We live in a community of incredible determination and heart and that’s the attitude we bring to making a positive difference in the community where we live.”
Perhaps one of the most visible acts of the team’s concern for the community came when DeSean Jackson came to the aid of 13-year-old Nadin Khoury. Khoury was the victimized by bullies in the form of a videotaped beating that was broadcast on YouTube.
Jackson gave Khoury one of his jerseys and told him that he and his Eagles teammates would always have his back.
“These guys have heart,” said Martinez-Helfman. “A child is going to look up to the football players and what they do is going to be important.”
Martinez-Helfman said it was the participation of Eagles fans that helped to raise money for their various community service programs such as Eagles Mobile Eye care program.
“It’s more than the trophy, it’s what enables us to do moving forward,” Martinez-Helfman said. “When you’re held up as a model globally, that means are going come to us and ask how we do what we do. For us, we really redoubling our efforts and making sure that what we’re doing is really making meaningful impact. We’re in a position to share what we do off the field. We don’t share what we do on the field, we don’t share what we do on the field. On the field we’re extremely competitive.
“Off the field we give it away and that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of big problems in the world that we’ve got to address.”
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