Dillon Payne

Volkswagen’s CHAMP Raises Autism Awareness

In 2021, we helped Volkswagen introduce CHAMP, its telepresence robot, to the world alongside the U.S. Women’s National Team in East Hartford, CT. Our collective goal for CHAMP is to connect children with their favorite players and share their incredible stories with the world. As we reflect, we feel proud to have created many amazing opportunities for young fans.

With key learnings in tow, we kicked off CHAMP’s 2022 support series in high gear for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s pivotal FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Panama in Orlando, FL on March 27.

CHAMP supports Autism Awareness Month

Recognizing April is Autism Awareness Month, our goal was to work with a non-profit that supports families and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Working closely with the Autism Society of Greater Orlando, we were inspired by the amazing story of the Smith Family – a family who have two children with ASD who just so happen to be big fans of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While many children with ASD often feel overwhelmed when exposed to stimulating senses, Elijah (13) and his brother Jeremiah (11) find comfort in the sport of soccer. Elijah feels at home on the soccer field while Jeremiah loves to watch and support his brother from the sidelines. Even though they are big fans of the team, they had yet to experience professional soccer at this level. One special friend of Volkswagen set out to change this. 

Christian Pulisic surprises Smith Family

The Smith Family story is one that hits close to home for Volkswagen Ambassador and U.S. Men’s National Team captain, Christian Pulisic. When he was only three years old, his older brother, Chase, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a high-functioning form of autism.

So, when we shared the Smith Family story with Pulisic it was no surprise he jumped at the opportunity to support the family. He teamed up with Volkswagen to surprise Elijah, Jeremiah, and the family with an exclusive CHAMP experience at team training and at Exploria Stadium on match day.

In addition, VW organized tickets for the whole family to come and experience a crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifier, which ended as a 5-1 win for the United States. We couldn’t have planned the night any better, as Pulisic went on to score a hat trick in the decisive victory. Needless to say, this was an experience the whole family will never forget.

I had butterflies in my stomach thinking about how this was going to affect them, and it was truly a special day. They will remember this for the rest of their lives.

Margie Smith, mother of Elijah and Jeremiah

The Smith Family is just one example of the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences Volkswagen and CHAMP provides to children who may not normally have access to the see their favorite Men’s and Women’s National Teams. To learn more about CHAMP and the experience we’ve already provided, head to ussoccer.com/vwchamp.

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