Participating in sporting events and athletic training undoubtedly isn't easy for many Special Olympics athletes. But neither is pulling a 93,000-pound plane across a tarmac at Newark Airport.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, a team made up of employees from Basking Ridge-based OPTUM, along with some friends and family members, will face a tough challege at the 2012 Plane Pull to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey. The fundraiser begins at 8 a.m. with "plane pull" teams attempting to pull a Boeing 737 during a day of special events at Newark Liberty International Airport.
This is the fourth year that the Basking Ridge company, located at 131 Morristown Road, is participating in the plane pull with a team of 20, said Meghan Marinari, team captain and project manager for OPTUM's mergers and acquisitions department. OPTUM is a branch of the United Healthcare group, she said.
"Every year, we think, 'How are we going to do it?'" Marinari told Patch. "When you get there and your guys are all together, you pull it," she added.
She said the team is scheduled to head out for its team pull at about 9:30 a.m. during a day in which the public is invited to learn about Newark Airport.
Their team, named OPTUM-ism, has raised over $1,400 so far this year, according to information from Special Olympics New Jersey. “We are pulling in honor of a team member's brother who passed away three years ago. His brother had Down's Syndrome and was an active participant in Special Olympics," Marinari said.
The team has since also attracted the participation of employees with children in the Special Olympics, she said.
"It's such a great team-building event," Marinari said. She added the shared goal in the fundraiser is a great opportunity to get together with co-workers outside of the office.
At the Plane Pull, each team will compete in two events: Fastest Pull, in which the teams attempt to pull the aircraft 12 feet in the least amount of time; and Lowest Combined Weight Pull, in which the team with the lowest team weight to pull the aircraft 12 feet (two-minute limit) wins, according to Special Olympics New Jersey. There is also a category for highest fundraiser. The minimum team donation to participate is $1,000.
The event, now in its 16th year, is hosted by United Airlines and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey as part of Airport Family Day. It is one of a series of events throughout the year sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey, according to the Special Olympics organization.
Marinari said the company has filled up spots in a 20-member team, but is looking for backup team members. To learn more about the charity event — or to donate — Marinari can be reached at is Meghan.Marinari@optum.com.
All proceeds benefit the 22,000 Special Olympics New Jersey athletes who train and compete year-round throughout the state. To learn more about the event or support OPTUM-ism, go online.
Special Olympics New Jersey said its organization provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic-type sports for more than 22,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, completely free of charge, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone each day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast, sign-up here.