After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Go Long for Luke fundraiser to support those with autism has been scheduled for March 27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Sophie Greenfield, a junior at The Weber School, acknowledged that this flag-football fundraiser — the third to be held in Atlanta since she, her twin brother, Luke, and parents moved to Atlanta in 2017 — is boosting its profile with the new location. The first Go Long for Luke event was held at Chastain Park in 2018, and the second at Weber in 2019.
“We wanted to expand it to get our message out there more,” Greenfield said. She and her friends, Cole and Jesse Faller, launched the event in 2013, when she and Luke were nine years old, to raise awareness for kids with autism. The Greenfield family was living in Roslyn, N.Y., at the time.
According to the Autism Speaks website, autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that one in every 44 children is affected by the condition.
“Everyone has been home with COVID, so it will be good to get everyone together in a big place, where the Atlanta Falcons play,” said Greenfield’s mother, Sandi. Masks will be provided, and the large area will allow the 100 or so kids who will be playing in the four or five age-appropriate games to spread out, she added. “We won’t pack the stadium.”
The family hopes to double the $20,000 that was raised in the free event back in 2019. The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization plans to distribute funds to several groups, including Autism Speaks Georgia, Hi Hope Service Center — which supports adults with developmental disabilities — Annandale Village, which provides assisted living for adults and Jacob’s Ladder, the school Luke attended.
Since the Greenfields moved to Atlanta, the twins have attended separate schools, which, Sophie Greenfield said, has been good for both of them. “He loves his school,” she said, speaking fondly of her twin. Although Luke is non-verbal, he communicates by typing messages. She responds, she said, either by typing back or speaking. “He understands everything.”
Luke doesn’t plan to play in the football games. “He likes to watch and be a videographer and photographer. He loves to take videos of everyone playing,” Greenfield said of her brother, who is also her “best friend.”
“We hang out together a lot. We have a great relationship.”
Previously, the event had been held in September, but holding it at the end of March is “closer to autism month in April,” said Greenfield, referring to Autism Awareness Month.
In addition to the approximately 40-minute games, the fundraiser will feature face-painting and an auction with prizes that include restaurant and spa packages.