Plane Pull Participation Pushes Department Into Top Fundraisers

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On Sept. 27, the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) challenges you to flex your muscles and show your strength in support of Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL). The 6th Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Plane Pull at O’Hare International Airport allows teams of 20 to face off against a UPS Airbus A300.

The LETR is the single largest year-round fundraising vehicle benefiting SOILL. The annual intrastate relay and its various fundraising projects have two goals: to raise money and to gain awareness for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics Illinois.

The Niles Police Department has been involved in the LETR for years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Deputy Chief Vince Genualdi and the department started pushing themselves to boost their fundraising efforts and become more actively involved.

In 2010, they brought in $5,000 and doubled that in 2011. In 2013, their new goal was to be listed on the back of the Torch Run T-shirt (a minimum of $15,000).

Niles PD Team-Special Olympics Plane Pull 2013 (3)To help reach their fundraising goal, the Niles P.D. competed in the Plane Pull. In the first year of participation, the team brought in $10,000 and the Niles P.D. was the event’s top fundraising group.

By the end of the year, the Niles P.D. had raised nearly $25,000 – exceeding their goal by almost $10,000. In fact, the department was the 10th highest fundraising law enforcement agency in the state of Illinois and secured their inclusion as a top fundraiser on the back of the LETR T-shirts.

The Niles P.D. participates in the LETR relay each year, as well as in the Polar Plunge. Genualdi finds these events help boost morale and build camaraderie amongst the department.

“Special Olympics Illinois is particularly important to the Niles Police Department,” says Genualdi.

This summer, he attended the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in Normal with his wife (a police officer in Park Ridge) to help pass out medals to competing athletes. It was there that he understood the end result and what all the fundraising was for.

“We do this for the athletes. It’s for the smiles on the athletes’ faces,” says Genualdi.

The LETR has raised nearly $31 million over 28 years while increasing awareness of SOILL athletes and their accomplishments.

By Alexandra McMillin, Manager of Communications