By Andrew Rich
Accomplishing something that requires true Herculean strength takes not only a sound body, but a sound mind as well. One must have an incredible amount of focus, placing all their concentration on the feat ahead. So what was Don Perkins thinking when he and twenty-four other members of his team were pulling a 72-ton plane using only their own strength?
“Not much really. It’s only 6 seconds.”
Perkins, a 44-year-old native of Unity, Maine, is one of more than 500 people who participated in the 2014 MS Plane Pull®, organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (MSmaine.org). The competition, which took place on June 7 at the Portland Jetport in Portland, Maine, consisted of 23 teams each attempting to pull a FedEx 757 jet (lovingly nicknamed “Dexter”) 12 feet, by way of a rope and tow bar attached to the plane. The event was held to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and services for people with MS. There are more than 3,000 people with MS in Maine; it’s a chronic neurologic illness that interrupts the signals from the brain to the body, and can stop people from moving forward in their lives.
Although he had only heard of the MS Plane Pull just recently, Perkins, who is the Assistant General Manager of the Sea Dog Brew Pub was immediately drawn to it, and became his team’s captain.
“It sounded so cool,” Perkins said. “It’s a cool concept.”
Perkins and the rest of his team were competing in support of a former employee, Holly, who lives with MS. Since this was Perkins’ and the Sea Dog’s first year in the Plane Pull competition, intimidation was certainly an obstacle they needed to overcome.
“I was a little stressed out because the event was early (in the morning),” Perkins explained. “And restaurant people are not known for getting up early.”
Despite losing a couple of team members before the Pull, the Sea Dog team managed to wrangle some last minute replacements and successfully competed in the event.
Another team that didn’t have such problems was the team from Pratt & Whitney. The technology company was entering its ninth straight competition and boasted an impressive record of five first place victories. Despite their plane pulling success, Pratt & Whitney remains grounded in their reasoning for entering the event.
“We participate every year for two reasons,” wrote Steven Howe, the 64-year-old Manager of Employee Relations for Pratt & Whitney's North Berwick, ME facility. “First and foremost, the cause to promote research for a cure for MS, and fund services for those with MS is something Pratt & Whitney and its 1,300 Maine employees feel strongly about. Not only for those of our employees who (have) MS, but those employees who have friends and relatives affected by the disease.”
This year, Pratt & Whitney made an incredible statement. Not only did they place first in the competition for the sixth time, they did so in the fastest time in MS Plane Pull history: 4.297 seconds (full results). And yet, not even such a decisive victory could dampen the spirit of camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendship that existed among all the teams that day.
“The other teams were very supportive of our effort and many came to our team members and offered congratulations,” Howe said. “It really is a fun time for everyone.”
When all was said and done, the MS Plane Pull resulted in a huge success. The teams raised more than $43,500, which was the largest amount of money ever collected in the history of the event.
Sue Tidd, the Director of Development for the National MS Society in Maine, was blown away by the results: “One word comes to mind when I think of everyone there and all they did for us and the people in Maine with MS … humbled.”
It was certainly a tremendous day for everyone involved in this year’s Plane Pull. And as far as next year’s competition goes, Don Perkins and the Sea Dog Brew Pub are more than ready to step up their game. Their goal next year will be to raise $5,000.
“I think we’re gonna get a little more aggressive,” said Perkins. “Now that we know about the Plane Pull, we’re probably gonna start promoting a few months earlier.”
We’ll all just have to wait and see if that Sea Dog can take a bite out of the competition.