Where you've seen him
Soaring in for pregame ceremonies at numerous sporting events, most notably postseason games at Yankee Stadium. The bald eagle was scheduled for a fly-in at each of this week's World Series games in New York, his fourth Series since 1997.
Why you've paid attention
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the sight of America's national symbol has sent a patriotic charge through TV viewers and fans at stadiums. "Faces light up," says Challenger's trainer, Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation (AEF). "He has a way of putting a ray of sunshine in their hearts."
Blown out of his nest in southern Louisiana during a storm when he was an eaglet, Challenger, named in honor of the doomed space shuttle, was rescued and eventually taken to Dollywood, Dolly Parton's theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., where the AEF cares for him and some 70 other birds. Because of the constant human contact, Challenger, now 13, cant be released into the wild. "Physically, he's perfect," says Cecere, "but he thinks he's a person."
Challenger's first big sports event was the Bass Masters Classic in Greensboro, N.C., in 1994. Since then he has performed at baseball and NFL games, the '96 Paralympics in Atlanta and the '99 Fiesta Bowl. After the September attacks, he dropped in to see New York City firefighters, police and rescue workers, as well as children displaced by the tragedy, and he has turned up on Live with Regis and Kelly and Good Morning America. He'll appear at the Daytona 500 in February.
"Challenger's main purpose," says Cecere, "is to educate the public and raise awareness of the need to protect America's symbol of living free for future generations."