The numbers are in, and it’s another record: The 5th annual Pulling for Wishes Plane Pull raised an all-time high $360,000 for the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund. That means the non-profit group will have the financial backing to grant about 60 wishes at roughly $6,000 apiece to terminally and seriously ill children in Indiana. Equally as impressive: In the past five years, Republic Airways has raised more than $1 million through the Plane Pulls, a staggering amount considering the relative newness of our event.
“It’s just been amazing to see the outpouring of support,” said Director of Inflight Amy Chiappe (left), lead organizer of the event. “Every donation, every employee’s effort helps in the end – and that’s granting wishes to sick and terminally ill children who need some positive energy.”
The April 25 event inside the Indianapolis Maintenance Center was a record event on several fronts: a record number of teams (45, with a minimum entry $500 apiece); a record pull time (6.59 seconds to pull a 32-ton E175 a total of 15 feet); and a record number of top-level donors (four at $25,000 apiece: It Luggage, legal firms Ice Miller, Norton Rose Fulbright and JPrime 47 restaurant).
It was our highest-profile Plane Pull, too. The Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders (top right) kicked the morning off with a dance routine, followed immediately by an exhibition pull with several children and costumed superheroes. Former MLB All-Star player Scott Rolen (center, with Plane Pull shirt) was part of a pull team sponsored by the family of Wish child Tyler Frenzel. With penalty flag at the ready, former Colts lineman Rick DeMulling donned a zebra shirt as the celebrity referee, and Indianapolis sports radio host and former NFL lineman Joe Staysniak returned for emcee duties. The night of the event, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis (bottom right) held an exclusive charity dinner at JPrime47 in Carmel, Ind., drawing several of his teammates and adding thousands more dollars to the fundraising pot.
But the real action came from the teams – many wearing crazy costumes – and their competition to pull the American Airlines E-Jet in the shortest time. Defending Fastest Pull champion Carmel Fire Department officially began the morning with a pull time of 7.4 seconds (beating last year’s pull time of 8.08), but by day’s end they were dethroned by the LIDS Foundation with a pull time of 6.59 seconds – an all-time event record!
Each member of the LIDS team took home a roundtrip ticket from American Airlines, while pull teams Drew’s Heavy Weights of Supply Chain (best team costume) and Pulling for Mason (top team fundraiser) took home 10 $100 JPrime47 restaurant gift cards and 10 ERJ 190 aircraft models, respectively. Five non-employee spectators won the raffle prizes for weekend getaways to a mystery destination via a non-stop Republic Airways aircraft.
Of course, the event was all about the kids – and there were plenty of attractions to keep them occupied: bounce house, face-painting, costume contest, balloon animals, corn hole games, bracelet making, candy bag station, T-shirt sales and a photo booth, among other things. A food truck, as well as concessions for hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy, chips and soft drinks, helped keep everyone energized for the day, too.
Last year, the Plane Pull raised $251,000 and drew 43 pull teams and about 1,200 participants and spectators. This year, about the same number turned out, despite heavy rains and cooler temperatures.
Suffice to say, an event this big requires help – and lots of it. While it was all hands on deck at Headquarters chasing down sponsors and holding bake sales, lunch fundraisers and ice cream socials, IMC Hangar Manager Tim Simpson and a small army of Mechanics – namely Adam Abdul, Steve Austin, Tony Hancock, Keith Hickey, Tim Lentz, Pete Machon, Kevin Oxley, Joe Redden, Derek Robinson, Bill Terhune and James Thanadabouth – really helped, well, … pull things off. They cleaned the hangar space, moved equipment and parts to make room for the crowd, hung decorations and set up barricades, parked cars, escorted vendors and helped with crowd control – all on top of their already busy schedules.
There were dozens of other volunteers, too, from staffing the registration table and selling T-shirts to operating the food stations and running the silent auction (namely Ginger Yerman and Vicki Phelps). Other key players included Supply Chain AOG Manager Judy Michels, Payroll Manager Natalie Bussell, Manager of Inflight Reliability Christine Worthley, Flight Attendant Jesse Penman and Uniform Coordinator Mayra Ballines, to name a few. Simply put, it was a Companywide event, so really thanks go out to every associate who contributed, no matter how large or small the role.
So what about next year? The 6th annual Pulling for Wishes Plane Pull is tentatively set for the last weekend of April 2016. Start your fundraising now — see you there!
More photos: Click here for a photo gallery on the 2015 Pulling for Wishes Plane Pull.
Do you have news to share about your department or team? Email Scott Thien, manager of Corporate Communications, at email@example.com or call him at (317) 471-2540. Photos are welcome. You also can email story ideas to SpeakOut@rjet.com.