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The Seattle Seahawks just took a few simple steps to accommodate autistic fans. Great move!

The new plan to make CenturyLink Field more autism-friendly marks an NFL first.

The Seattle Seahawks just took a few simple steps to accommodate autistic fans. Great move!

For the past few seasons, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks have been force to be reckoned with.

They've made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances (winning one of them) on the strength of players like Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Kam Chancellor. They're also known for the devoted fanbase that makes up one of the league's loudest home crowds.

The team also does a lot of cool off-the-field work, including regular trips to Seattle Children's Hospital, and recently announced a brand new initiative to make their stadium more friendly to people with autism.



Russell Wilson (#3) drops back to pass during a game during the 2014 season. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

In an NFL first, the Seahawks debuted a partnership with the Autism Center of Tulsa's I'm A-OK program.

The Autism Center of Tulsa (ACT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing programs and partnerships geared towards increasing "awareness and understanding, community involvement, and independence for individuals and families affected by autism." ACT was founded by Jennifer Sollars-Miller and Michelle Wilkerson, both mothers of children living with autism.

"Parents work tirelessly to provide appropriate education,. "But we realized many in the community don't understand their unique needs, so they become defeated. Our program is an effort to support their independence and also give businesses the tools to recognize and resources to help their customers who are on the autism spectrum." — ACT co-founder Michelle Wilkerson

As part of their Seahawks partnership, ACT put together a kit for visitors with autism that will improve their game experience.

So what's in the kits?

Kits include noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs, a detailed game schedule, and sensory toys. Additionally, kits come with an "I'm A-OK" badge, which can help inform stadium crew about one's status so they can accommodate accordingly. These tools were designed with the intent of helping fans take the skills they've learned at home or in therapy and apply them in what can be a challenging and overwhelming environment.

"We realized there were a few simple things we could do that would make a positive impact for Seahawks fans on the [autism] spectrum," vice president of stadium operations David Young said in a press release. "The toolkits are just the first step."

For Seahawks general manager John Schneider and his wife, Traci, this is an issue close to their hearts.

In 2005, the Schneider's 3-year-old son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. In 2012, the couple launched Ben's Fund, a charity devoted to helping families of children with autism through grants. According to an April post on the Seahawks website, Ben's fund has raised more than $850,000 and awarded more than $400,000 in grants to over 500 families.


In a Seattle Times profile of the couple, they mention that noise in particular is something that Ben, now 13, continues to struggle with. That's why Wilkerson and Sollars-Miller decided to reach out to the Seahawks in the first place.


Schneider addresses the crowd at the Seahawk's Super Bowl XLVIII Victory Parade in 2014. Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.

So will Seattle's CenturyLink Field remain a raucous obstacle for game-day opponents? Without a doubt.

It's just also going to be a bit more accommodating for fans on the autism spectrum. More fans having more fun makes for a winning combo, right? Totally.

These fans just witnessed the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. I'd be pretty excited, too. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Will other teams adopt ACT's I'm A-OK program? ACT founders sure hope so.

"We're starting here, but we've already started getting calls from all over," Sollars-Miller told Seattle's KING 5 news. The team is the first, but hopefully won't be the last, to make their stadium more accessible to people with autism.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.