Tarmac Tug o’ War

Teams pull with purpose for MS Society


This wasn’t your average game of Tug o’ War. No sir. This wasn’t two teams of cousins battling it out at the family reunion or Accounting vs. Marketing at the company picnic. Nope. This was big. Huge in fact. This was Tug o’ Plane. Try Tug o’ Boeing 757.

But every team that tried pulling the 160,000-pound FedEx cargo plane on Saturday pulled their weight – and more – for the 2013 MS Jet Pull at T.F. Green Airport.

While spending hours at the airport is rarely a good time, this was certainly an exception. Teams of 25, most dressed in spirited costumes, used a giant rope to pull a giant plane to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. With teams like Team Massage Envy, the Wing Nuts and Betsy’s Buddies, each team had three tries to pull the jet 12 feet and the fastest time won.

A total of 20 teams participated and Team Wing Nuts had the fastest pull at 6.447 seconds, according to Ericka Tavares, the marketing and communications director for the Rhode Island chapter of the national MS Society. Tavares said that while it is too soon to tally the donations, because the teams still have several weeks to fundraise, the goal is to reach $70,000.

“It’s good to see so many people come out for a great cause,” said MS Society of Rhode Island President Kathy Mechnig. “It’s really inspiring.”

Hundreds of pullers, volunteers and spectators turned out for the event, but a lot of those people either have MS, or know someone who does. Steve Hollister, of Warwick, who works for FedEx on the vehicle maintenance crew and has volunteered his time to this event for years, just found out his wife was diagnosed with MS.

Mrs. Rhode Island Tonya Hurteau, who participated in the pull on Team Wing Nuts, also has MS.

And the event’s oldest puller was 75-year-old Alan Chamberlin (see sidebar), who has been diagnosed with CIDP, or Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, which according to WebMD, is an autoimmune disease closely related to MS.

Team spirit was definitely flying through the air on Saturday, particularly with Team Massage Envy’s team captain Ginny Marsella. Marsella organized her team’s participation from the two stores Massage Envy owns in Garden City and in East Greenwich. Marsella even sported a tutu for the event.

Of course, the main ingredient in any jet pull is the actual jet. “Without FedEx, there would be no Jet Pull,” Tavares said. “FedEx is awesome!”

FedEx donated the jet for the day and FedEx employees donated their time to help out.

“Our people just do it,” Hollister said of his fellow employees. “That’s the way people are in this company.”

Frank Johnson, a FedEx mechanic, came down all the way from Portland, Maine to participate in the event and serve as the 757’s pilot for the day. Roger Knight, a FedEx technical operations specialist based in Warwick, spent his Saturday pushing the plane back into position and served as an enthusiastic supporter of the pulling teams.

Fire Works Catering, of Providence, also sponsored the event and was on the scene to serve up the BBQ to all the event’s participants.


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