Using the Eagles' brand and the excitement it generates, Martinez-Helfman has built EYP into a worldwide leader in sports philanthropy. Last year the nonprofit Beyond Sport honored the Eagles as their international Sports Team of the Year, in large part because of the services EYP delivers to over 50,000 low-income youth in Philadelphia every year.
Under Martinez-Helfman, EYP's singular ability to leverage every inch of the Eagles' brand in support of their mission has turned the organization into an industry leader.
"We're pied pipers," she says. "We can make reading cool for kids who think it's not cool. We imbue everything with the fun of the Eagles to reach kids who are marginalized."
The District benefits from the Eagles Eye Mobile, launched in 1996, which travels to schools around the region conducting vision tests and providing free prescription glasses to uninsured youth. In 2009-10, a majority of the over 100 sites visited were public schools in Philadelphia. As budget cuts chip away at the District's crew of nurses, demand for the service continues to grow.
Same goes for the Eagles Book Mobile, which distributes books to schools where at least 80 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch. The Eagles also built new playgrounds at Drew, McKinley, Gideon, Wright, Heston, Bryant, Moffet, Potter-Thomas and Wister schools.
EYP, however, works on a site-by-site basis.
It's the District's macro partnerships with organizations like the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (ESYHF) that capture Robert Coleman's attention.
Founded by Flyers chairman Ed Snider in 2005, the organization first launched a school-day program designed to teach District students basic skating and hockey skills as part of their physical education curriculum.
Since then, ESYHF has expanded into the afterschool hours and broadened its partnership with the District to include an intramural hockey league.
In the words of ESYHF Executive Director Scott Tharp, "We have actually become the School District hockey provider."
In its role as the sole sponsor of all District hockey instruction and competition, ESYHF provides services valued at about $400,000 a year. It is as steady and lucrative an outside partnership as the Office of Athletics has.
But there are others. Coleman cites a relationship with the soccer nonprofit Starfinder, a wrestling program run by an organization called Beat the Streets Philadelphia, lacrosse opportunities provided by the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association, and a multi-sport partnership with the Black Women in Sports Foundation.
Those partnerships have allowed Coleman to, in his words, "stop the bleeding" as his department struggles with budget cuts.
In the future he hopes for more than just triage from the likes of Ed Snider and Ryan Howard. Coleman wants to build an entire Office of Athletics that is "able to run on outside donations."
Greg Johnson, of the Sports Philanthropy Project, offers a warning, though, to those who see sports philanthropy as a golden goose. He says it's easy to overlook quality control in a sector heavy on celebrity and public posturing.
"It's become fashionable for each athlete to have his or her own foundation," Johnson says, warning that the sprint to positive PR can trample even the best of intentions.
"You can give the books," Johnson says, "but you also have to make sure the books aren't just thrown in the corner."
There's more to sports philanthropy, he says, than handouts.
"You need to develop a relationship with a team," Johnson explains. "School systems and athletic departments need to think strategically about all the assets a team has and avail themselves of them—not just take a … check and think nothing more."
For now though, after the year that Robert Coleman has had, the train seems more than enough.