Go Long for Luke, a nonprofit that supports children with autism and other neurological disorders, is once again combining flag football with fundraising.
The organization will host its sixth annual flag football charity event Nov. 3 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Weber School in Sandy Springs. Children ages 6 to 19 are invited to sign up to play flag football, and anyone can make a donation.
In 2013, Go Long For Luke, a nonprofit, was founded by Sophie Greenfield, Cole Faller and Jesse Faller on behalf of Luke Greenfield, Sophie’s twin brother. Its mission statement is “kids raising awareness for kids with autism.”
During the event’s first four years of existence, it was held in Roslyn, New York, a New York City suburb, before the Greenfields moved to Buckhead in 2017. They have since shifted their fundraising efforts to Atlanta.
As the Greenfield family is directly touched by this cause, one in 45 children are diagnosed with autism.
“Luke is my twin brother,” Sophie said. “He is now 15 and has limited speech. Autism is my family’s norm. We love it, embrace it and are always ready for the next challenge. My family and I moved to Atlanta two years ago and we are so excited to bring this fantastic event to Atlanta for the second year.”
Luke attends the Jacobs Ladder School in Buckhead, and all proceeds will be going to that school, which serves children with all types of neurological disorders – autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injury to a range of learning disabilities and genetic disorders.
The school is planning an expansion to the property next door and needs funds plus items such as gym equipment and computers for the project.
“This event means more than anything to me,” Luke’s mother, Sandi Greenfield, said. “It’s about kids raising awareness for kids with autism. It is such an inspiration today to see the kids with special needs being supported by the typical kids. The typical kids come out and play flag football for these (disabled) kids. They’re raising awareness, which is great. High school students can also get community service by helping, and we have a lot of volunteer opportunities for them as well.”
For the children signing up to play flag football, no experience is necessary and players will be divided into age groups. This year’s event will also include entertainment by DJ Rhythm and a silent auction that includes items from the best restaurants and shops in Atlanta and tickets to Atlanta sporting events.
Sandi said the 2018 event raised $24,000, and she hopes to bring in more this year. Sandi added Go Long for Luke is also planning an evening gala fundraiser in 2020 and hopes to one day open a special home for young adults with autism.
“The goal,” she said, “is to acquire property where we can buy or build a home and have the first Go Long for Luke group home and a recreational, life skills day home where during the day, kids can do occupational or speech therapy and recreational programs they like to do, where kids can function with daily life schools and enjoy their lives like all the typical young adults.
“Once Luke and others age out of the school system, there’s not a lot of (employment) opportunities for them. We’d also like to buy a small business like a bakery or bagel store where the young adults can work.”