They grunted. They groaned. They gritted their teeth.
“Pull. Pull. Pull,” chanted members of BMCD Waldo Warriors, dressed as the character Waldo from “Where’s Waldo?”
And slowly the FedEx Boeing 757 rolled forward, gaining speed as it inched toward the finish line 12 feet away.
The team, made up of employees of Burns & McDonnell, was one of 30 competing to pull the jet the fastest as part of the annual Pull A Plane, an event benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City.
“We didn’t use any special calculations or any engineering tricks,” said Jason Fuehne of Overland Park, a member of the BMCD Waldo Warriors. “We just pulled.”
And even when you get it started, the hard part isn’t over.
“You had to keep pulling,” he said. “It didn’t, like, keep going after you first started it off. It got more difficult the longer we did it.”
Fuehne knew it was going to be hard. After all, the team participated last year. But unlike last year, members didn’t need to summon help this time.
Such help comes from people like David McCoskey of Kansas City, North, who is part of the Strong Arm volunteers, a group of about 15 people who provide extra muscle.
“We love to help out and give what we can,” McCoskey said. “We are the strongest of them all — that’s why we are out here.”
The fastest pull was 9.1 seconds, which completed by two teams — Jim Wagy & Ronald Fitness Pals and Centric Project.
The teams raised more than $80,000, said Tami Greenberg, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City.
“The money all stays here — it stays local — to support families with sick kids who are staying with us at Ronald McDonald House Charities,” she said. “It’s a lot of good spirit, camaraderie and competition while all pulling for a good cause.”
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City provides lodging annually to nearly 5,000 families of sick children receiving medical care at area hospitals. It also supports more than 54,000 of the children’s inpatient visits and their families at its Family Room space at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We are taking care of 87 families every night, and all of those families have seriously ill kids,” Greenberg said. “So we keep those families close to their kids while they get better and get the medical care that they need.”
Sixteen-year-old Ayden Ethridge of Fredonia, Kan., knows how important the charity is. He experienced heart failure on Feb. 7. He was flown to Wichita and then to Kansas City for treatment.
“We’ve been living in the Ronald McDonald House since Feb. 8,” said Jill Gillett, Ayden’s mom. “It helps take off the financial burden, and we don’t have to stay in a hotel, and we aren’t driving back and forth as much.”
The teen has since had a full heart transplant.
Valerie Felix with the Roasterie Team said hearing Ayden’s story was the key to get the plane moving, even though seeing the size of the jet for the first time shocked her.
“It is kind of intimidating and it was a challenge, but nothing that can’t be overcome,” she said. “I was thinking it (the plane) would be something a little bit smaller than that.”
Her team struggled to get the plane moving and called for help from the Strong Arms.
“You realize you need more teammates,” she said. “When we first got that plane moving, that was the driver there. That’s what took it home.”