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'Plane Pull' raises record amount for Va. Special Olympics

More than 80 teams participate in annual event
A team from Freddie Mac participates in the Dulles Plane Pull at Washington Dulles International Airport on Sept. 2, 2023. The event raised $530,000 for Special Olympics Virginia.

Virginia Special Olympics received a record $530,000 through the 2023 Dulles Day Festival & Plane Pull, which also supported other charitable organizations.

The event, held Sept. 9 at Washington Dulles International Airport, “gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority president/CEO Jack Potter, outlining the details to the organization’s board of directors on Sept. 20.

In addition to the festival, more than 80 teams of 25 people each signed up to pull 80-ton airplanes (a FedEx Boeing 757 and United Airlines Boeing 737) 12 feet to raise funds for Special Olympics and other organizations. The event has been taking place for three decades.

Each team raised at least $2,500 for the privilege to pull an airplane 12 feet in the quickest time. Top fund-raising teams were Cisco, GDIT/GDMS, Team Jacobs and the Chesapeake (Va.) Sheriff’s Office.

“What made the event even more memorable was the involvement of Special Olympics Virginia athletes, who served as athlete coaches,” Special Olympics officials said. “Their presence and participation added a deeper layer of meaning to the event as they cheered on teams and, in some cases, joined in the pull.”

Because inclement weather rolled in during the afternoon, the 14-time champion Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office and several other teams were unable to take their turn. As a result, no champion was crowned for 2023, Potter said.