The Rapidian

Flex your muscles for Special Olympics

The Gerald R Ford International Airport's 50th Anniversary celebration will include a plane pull to benefit Special Olympics Michigan on July 19.

Where to find the Plane Pull and Airport Day

Air Cargo and Trade Center

East side of the airfield (accessed from Thornapple River Drive)

6450 Air Cargo Drive, Grand Rapids

The state's first Special Olympics Plane Pull since 2003 will be held at the Gerald R Ford International Airport on July 19. The event is a fundraiser for Special Olympics in which teams work together to move an aircraft. Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m., followed by the plane pull itself at 9:00 a.m. and a lunch and awards ceremony at noon.

Interested participants need a team of at least 25 people, and the team must raise at least $1,250 to participate. Teams will race to see who can pull a 200,000-pound A300 aircraft a distance of 12 feet the fastest. Organizers anticipate 10-12 teams, and those that cannot field enough participants will be allocated spots with other teams. 

All proceeds from the event will go to Special Olympics Michigan to help them provide year-round training and athletic competition to more than 12,000 athletes of all ages. Special Olympics Michigan has partnered with Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run to host the event.

Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run is composed of a group of law enforcement officials from across the state who elected Special Olympics Michigan as their charity of choice. They run a number of events on behalf of Special Olympics Michigan, including the polar plunge series, which has raised over a million dollars across the state this year. 

Grand Rapids resident Bryan Kieft participated in the Grand Rapids polar plunge in February 2014. Now, he hopes to field a plane pull team in honor of his daughter Sara, who has special needs. Eleven-year-old Sara attends Lincoln School in Grand Rapids and has participated in Special Olympics events in the past.

"It's not really a cash-rich organization, so I'm very supportive of anything that people can do to help them raise money and also have a really good time," says Kieft. "It would be wonderful if we could continue doing this many years in the future."  

The plane pull is part of the Gerald R Ford International Airport's year-round celebration of their 50th anniversary. The airport will also host an Airport Day on July 19, which will include displays of aircraft and airport equipment, a sky diving exhibition by Central Michigan Skydivers and a food tent. Activities for kids will include a bounce house along with face painting and balloon twists by Giggles and Chuckles. Festivities will continue until 2:00 p.m.

Special Olympics Michigan Southwest Marketing and Development Director Ashley Diersch says that the event will offer lots of family-friendly and team-building activities. 

“It's a new way to fundraise and be active, all on behalf of Special Olympics Michigan," says Diersch. "We're hoping that this will become a great showcase event in the Grand Rapids area."

Anyone interested in participating in the Plane Pull can register online now.

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