Four Special Olympics athletes, one coach, and one Maryland Special Olympics delegate will arrive at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport with anticipation July 17. They’re heading to Lincoln, Neb., to compete in the 2010 USA National Games. But they won’t be standing in any security lines at the airport. AOPA President Craig Fuller is giving them a lift in the association’s Cessna Citation Jet as part of the Citation Special Olympics Airlift.
Cessna is sponsoring the Citation airlift for the sixth year. This will be the first year AOPA has flown in the airlift, joining nearly 170 participating companies. The airlift is predicted to transport 4,000 athletes and coaches; jets are schedule to land every two minutes at Lincoln over a 10-hour period. To fall into line, Fuller and the Maryland athletes will depart Baltimore at 6:15 a.m., with a flight call sign of “Dove 14.” Fuller will then use the jet to travel for business in the Midwest.
“I am honored that AOPA, and I personally, have the opportunity to help these athletes achieve their dreams,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “This is just one more way that GA is uniquely suited and willing to serve the broader community.”
“The bond developed between pilots and passengers is hard to describe—you need to experience it to understand the magnitude of what has become the largest peacetime airlift in the world,” the airlift’s website states.
More than 3,000 athletes will compete in aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball during a six-day period. The mission of the games is to illustrate “the power of sports to educate and inform about the true abilities and achievements of people with intellectual disabilities.”
What has become an international program started in 1962 as a day camp at Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Rockville, Md., home. The movement quickly grew, and by 1968, 1,000 athletes participated in the first International Special Olympics Games. Now, Special Olympics has more than 200 programs in more than 180 countries, allowing it to reach 3.1 million people.