Jason Kelce is greeted by cheers from his fans while running on the Promenade in the Mike's Seafood Run-Walk for Autism on Feb. 17. (Photo courtesy of Mike's Seafood Facebook page)


Despite the near-freezing temperature on a winter afternoon, burly Jason Kelce was drenched in sweat when he crossed the finish line in the Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism.

Although the Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro and Pro-Bowl center had made a surprise appearance at the autism awareness fundraiser Feb. 17 in Sea Isle City, word quickly spread through the crowd that he was participating in the 5K run.

His fans were waiting for him at the finish line – their cellphones ready. Dozens shot video and snapped photos that were splashed all over social media shortly after Kelce completed his run on the oceanfront Promenade and then walked home to his vacation house in Sea Isle.

A full week later, Mike Monichetti, the owner of Mike’s Seafood and the organizer of the autism awareness fundraiser, remains astonished by the huge amount of publicity generated by Kelce’s appearance at the event.

“He’s like a magnet. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Monichetti said in an interview Saturday.

Media outlets from Los Angeles to London, including ESPN’s SportsCenter and Sports Illustrated magazine, carried stories about Kelce at the autism fundraiser, Monichetti noted.

Monichetti believes that all of the national and international publicity about Kelce has helped to generate more donations for the autism fundraiser in the past week.

“I noticed that we’re getting more money online. It seems to have significantly increased,” he said.

Donations may still be made at Mike’s Seafood Run/Walk (

Jason Kelce takes a breather after finishing the 5K run.

During its 16-year history in Sea Isle, the Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism has raised more than $1 million for autism support groups, special services schools and families of special needs children.

“Any day you can do something good for children with disabilities, it’s a good day,” Monichetti said.

Monichetti and his wife, Jeannie, have four children, including two who have autism, Kara, who will soon turn 23, and Michael Jr., 21. Having autistic children and knowing the challenges that parents with autistic children face on a daily basis served as their inspiration for starting the fundraiser in 2009.

Promoting autism awareness has also been a major effort by Jason Kelce. For three years in a row, he has appeared as a celebrity bartender at the Ocean Drive bar and sister property O’Donnell’s Pour House in Sea Isle to raise money for his “Team 62” campaign. Team 62 is part of the Eagles Autism Challenge, an annual fundraiser for the Eagles Autism Foundation.

There was a strong connection between the Eagles Autism Foundation and Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism on Feb. 17. Ryan Hammond, the executive director of the Eagles Autism Foundation, was joined by Kelce’s wife, Kylie, during registration for the run-walk just before it got underway.

Monichetti said even he didn’t know ahead of time that Jason Kelce was planning to show up for the event. The first inkling he got was when his wife, Jeannie, mentioned to him that she saw Hammond and Kylie Kelce during registration.

The Monichettis both expressed their thanks to Hammond and Kylie for their participation in the event, as well as to Jason Kelce.

“Jeannie and I are very grateful that Jason Kelce would come out to support our cause,” Monichetti said.

Jason Kelce does his turn as a celebrity bartender during an autism awareness fundraiser at O’Donnell’s Pour House in Sea Isle in 2023.

Autism awareness is an issue that is of particular importance to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. His brother, Peter, has autism. In addition to creating the Eagles Autism Foundation, Lurie’s Eagles partnered with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to build a “sensory room” inside the Lincoln Financial Field stadium in 2019 to accommodate fans and families dealing with sensory challenges, including autism.

Monichetti praised Hammond for doing “amazing work” as the executive director of the Eagles Autism Foundation.

“There are a lot of people out there who support children and adults with autism,” he said.

Like Jason, and Kylie Kelce, Hammond also has a vacation home in Sea Isle, Monichetti said.

During their summers in Sea Isle, Jason and Kylie Kelce and Jason’s parents occasionally show up at Mike’s Seafood for sit-down dinners or takeout orders.

Jason’s brother, Travis, the All-Pro and Pro-Bowl tight end for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, has also stopped by at Mike’s Seafood. There have been no sightings yet at Mike’s Seafood of Travis’ famous girlfriend, pop superstar Taylor Swift.

Although Jason Kelce plays in Philly, Sea Isle residents consider him as their hometown hero.

Sea Isle residents may claim Kelce as one of their own, but don’t necessarily want to see the future Hall of Famer leave Philadelphia altogether. They are hoping that he plays for the Eagles at least one more season, despite reports that he is ready to retire.

The sign displayed in the front window at Mike’s Seafood urges Jason Kelce, “Don’t Retire.”

Reflecting the town’s love for Kelce, Mike’s Seafood has placed a large sign in the storefront window on Park Road urging him not to retire.

It bluntly says, “Don’t Retire.” The sign also proclaims that “We Love You 62,” referring to Kelce’s jersey number. It is addressed to Kelce from “The Crew @ Mike’s Seafood.”

Monichetti said he spoke to Kylie Kelce to find out whether Jason has ever seen the “Don’t Retire” sign while he has been in Sea Isle.

“She said, yes, he had seen it and it didn’t bother him. He chuckled when he saw it,” Monichetti said, laughing.