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Local group pulls together for Special Olympics

What: Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull
When: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Dulles Airport
Why: To raise money for the Virginia Special Olympics
More info: http://www.planepull.com

Watching people pull a plane is an unexpected occurrence. Watching a hound mascot, a beauty queen, a former quarterback and a radio disc jockey try to pull a plane seems almost unlikely.

But on Sept. 22, all these people and more will come together to haul an airbus at the 20th annual Dulles Plane Pull at Dulles Airport.

The event brings together teams of 25 people who then try to pull a plane down the runway using rope. The team with the furthest continuous pull wins. However, the ultimate goal is to raise money for the Virginia Special Olympics. Each team must raise a minimum of $1,250 to participate.

One of the squads will be a local “celebrity team,” organized by Mara Bauserman of West Virginia and local Realtor Gina Tufano.

“I wanted to do it last year, but I couldn’t get enough of my athletic friends to do it,” Bauserman said. “I talked to Gina because it’s something that’s right up her alley.”

Tufano is no stranger to charity or adventure.

“I had a medical event a few years ago and when I came out of it, I had all these regrets,” Tufano said. “When I came out of it, I decided I’m not going to let my body stop me from doing anything.”

Tufano has been parasailing, snorkeling in Alaska and on various other adventures. Additionally, she has helped mobilize her office to participate in charitable causes, including donating backpacks to lower-income students and hosting food drives.

According to Tufano, the Special Olympics cause spoke to her.

“We have a friend whose son just turned 20,” Tufano said. “He has Down syndrome. Watching him grow up, the cause is near and dear to us. His mom has been our biggest cheerleader.”

After deciding to participate in the event, the team, dubbed Ask Gina and Company, then had to mobilize a squad of locals to participate. The first celebrity to jump on board was Fetch from the Loudoun Hounds.

“We have participated in the Dulles Day festivities before, including the plane pull,” said Jason Rufner, who sometimes handles Fetch’s appearances. “We’re very excited not only because it helps us connect with the community and Loudoun but also because it shows support for the good work they do at the Virginia Special Olympics.”

The pair has said finding new members has largely been an easy task.

“I would say 80 percent of the people we’ve asked have joined,” Tufano said. “We’re all of the same mentality – we want to give, we want to have fun, we want to live and we want to do it all in Loudoun.”

Tufano and Bauserman’s team includes several prominent Loudoun residents, including Fetch; Andrew Tufano, a musician from Sterling; Shawn Williams, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors; and Francesca Reilly, who was named Miss Loudoun County Fair 2012. Also on the team are Sean Glennon, former Virginia Tech quarterback, DJ Cerphe Colwell and Jaspen Boothe, the founder of Final Salute Inc.

The team are still looking to fill five open slots but is confident they will do so before the event. Additionally, they’re hoping to raise $2,500, double the required amount. Ask Gina and Company will be pulling the plane between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull begins at 11 a.m. on Sept. 22, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. In addition to the plane pull, there will be music, airplane and car displays, food and entertainment. The event will conclude at 4 p.m.


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