Third annual “Plane Pull” raises $250,00 for Special Olympics

Staff Writer<

Four hundred strong men and women on 20 different teams got together to take turns pulling a 153-foot, 158,000-pound Boeing 727 aircraft 25 feet down the tarmac at Long Beach Airport (LGB) last Saturday. The event, billed as the Third Annual Plane Pull, drew another 200 to 300 onlookers and raised about $25,000 for Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC).
“This is a fun, exciting way for corporations, law enforcement and firefighters to get together in a friendly competition to raise money for a good cause,” said Kim Pine, SOSC vice president of communications and marketing. “Each of the teams raised a minimum of $1,000.”
The teams solicited donations from friends and businesses for several weeks before the event. During the competition, each team had two chances to tug the rope attached to the jumbo jet, which was pushed back to the starting line by a truck after each pull.
“The teams with the fastest times were the winners, but we also gave a trophy to the team with the slowest time,” Pine explained with a chuckle.
The overall winner of the event was the FedEx LAX team with a pull time of 7.41 seconds. A group calling itself Cathy’s Team won the trophy for the slowest time at 17.66 seconds.
Pine added that law enforcement agencies are the biggest fundraisers for Special Olympics nationwide. “In Southern California alone, law enforcement officers have raised $900,000 for our cause,” she said, noting that the Plane Pull is part of the law enforcement’s Torch Run program.
“The Torch Run is the single largest grassroots fundraising effort benefiting Special Olympics around the world,” said Bill Shumard, president and CEO of SOSC. He noted that, through the law enforcement Torch Run campaign, Special Olympics conducts Tip-A Cop events, car shows, polar plunges and plane pulls to help support the athletic opportunities the organization provides to the developmentally disabled.
“Law enforcement in general is a strong supporter of the Special Olympics,” said Californian Highway Patrol Sgt. Adam Christin, one of the coordinators of the event. “The Plane Pull has been going on back east for the last 16 years, and we brought it to California a few years ago. It’s a great way to bring law enforcement, fire fighters, and other organizations together to help out special athletes.”
“This is an opportunity to showcase the Special Olympics,” said Long Beach Vice Mayor Val Lerch. “This has been a tremendous week for the Olympics in Beijing, but the Special Olympics is closer to the heart for me. They have come back to Long Beach after being gone for a while, and I am glad this event is taking place here because it helps a really great organization.”
Fifth District City Councilwoman Gerri Schipske agreed with Lerch. “We are happy that they came back to Long Beach,” she said. “The plane pull is a great community event that makes everyone aware of the Special Olympics and gets people involved in doing something fun and different.” SOSC Headquarters is in the 5th District.
“Since the Special Olympics is based here in Long Beach, obviously we should support them in any way we can,” said Chris Kunze, acting airport director. “Obviously we have the facility here for a plane pull and one of our major tenants is FedEx.” He praised the company for helping coordinate the event and providing one of its jets for the contest.
LGB had its team of staff members participating in the event. “It’s a fun way to raise money for a good cause,” Kunze added.
The Boeing 727, which is owned by FedEx, does not normally use LGB, but was flown here specially for the event. “We support Special Olympics and other charities all over the country by providing an aircraft and maintenance to support it,” said Tina Rodgers, a representative of FedEx Express in Memphis, Tennessee.
Special Olympics offers sports training and competitions to developmentally disabled athletes in 11 countries. SOSC makes those programs available throughout the year to about 13,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities who live in this region. According to its official statement, the organization helps the local athletes “develop fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with other athletes, their families and the community.”
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