HUNDREDS RAISE SPECIAL OLYMPICS FUNDS BY PULLING BOEING 737 AIRBUS AIRPLANE
Glen Ridge Voice - 10/5/2017
For some, the motivation to pull a 93,000-pound Boeing 737 Airbus came from the shouts and cheers of friends, family and teammates. For others, it was the shouts and cheers of friends, family, teammates and the dulcet tones of a bagpipe.
However the 52 teams were motivated to pull the aircraft down the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport, all were doing it for the same reason -- to benefit the Special Olympics of New Jersey and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The event has been held for 21 years and organizer Sue Parsons said this year they broke their fundraising record. Last year, the plane pull raised $121,000 and this year they've surpassed it by over $80,000 and more people were donating as the day went on.
The Special Olympics allows people with intellectual disabilities to participate in a number of different sports. The organization serves 25,000 athletes in New Jersey and more than 4.9 million athletes in 172 countries worldwide.
The pull is also part of a larger family day at the airport and is one of the organization's most popular events, said Sabrina Doshi, social media and publications coordinator with the Special Olympics.
"I think it's one of the more popular events because it's unique," Doshi said, noting that the February polar plunge is also extremely well attended.
The plane that the teams were pulling is 110.4 feet long, carries 148 passengers and can fly 12-plus hours without refueling.
Teams no bigger than 20 came from all of New Jersey to try their luck at two different types of plane pulls. The first pull was to see how fast all 20 team members could pull the aircraft 12 feet. The second pull was to see which team could pull the aircraft with the least amount of weight. Some teams started out with only five people, adding more team members if they were unable to get the aircraft to move.
Team YP, made up of members of the North Arlington-based Building Owners and Management Association, was in first place as of 10 a.m., pulling the Boeing 737 12 feet using only eight of the 20 team members and weighing a total of only 1,800 pounds. It was the team's first year participating and they raised $8,283 for the Special Olympics.
"It feels good to do good," said team captain Jamie Kazazian.
Kazazian decided to put a team together after participating in the Lincoln Tunnel run and said he and his teammates looked forward to coming again next year.
There were also several police departments participating, including Linden, Howell, Toms River, Freehold Township and Weehawken. Officers from the Toms River Police Department managed to pull the aircraft 12 feet in 6.89 seconds, almost two seconds faster than the next fastest team.
The Shillelagh Tuggers from the Jersey Shore was the only team pulling the plane to a bagpiper, and jokingly told emcees Cristina Lang and John Delgiorno they practiced by lifting 16-ounce beers.
Shira Rusignuolo and her two children, Alana, 5, and Logan, 2, were in the crowd to cheer on her husband and his coworkers from the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. Rusignuolo said she was so excited when her husband had the time off to participate in the pull.
"I said 'Finally!'," Rusignuolo said with a laugh. "I've been wanting him to do this. I'm jealous that I can't."