INDIANAPOLIS — Special Olympics are known for having unusual fundraising activities. Saturday’s event at the former Indianapolis International Airport was no different.
It was the ninth annual FedEx Plane Pull Challenge. Teams of up to 20 competed to see who could pull a FedEx Boeing 727 aircraft 12 feet the fastest and with the lowest combined weight among team members.
”It’s just one of those things you can walk away from saying, ‘I pulled a Boeing 727 aircraft,’” said Amanda Shelley, public relations and marketing manager for Special Olympics Indiana. “It’s very ominous the first time you see it. It’s not a little Cessna or biplane; it’s a jumbo jet. It’s something you can be very proud of yourself for doing.”
There were 74 teams registered this year, some from as far away as Hammond and Lawrenceburg. That’s 15 more than last year and the largest field ever for the plane pull.
”We continue to grow in the nine years we’ve had the event,” Shelley said. “We started with 15 teams in 2002, so it’s really grown. We’re not sure if it’s just people finally starting to get the word out.”
The Plainfield Correctional Facility has organized a team for five years now, called the Plainfield Pirates.
”The first couple of years were kind of rough because we were new to it and didn’t know what was going on,” said Antoine Stewart, an officer at the correctional facility and the Pirates’ captain. “But now we’re having a lot more people getting into it.”
He admits there’s an intimidation factor the first time you approach the jumbo jet. But ultimately it’s all about momentum.
”It’s really just getting the plane moving,” Stewart said. “Once you do that, the motion will come with it.”
Katie Hemlock, captain of Fundex’s team, didn’t know what to expect the first time she participated in the plane pull.