" Good Samaritans With Wings"

by James J. Dobranich Sr.

On July 1st, the Cessna Aircraft Company will conduct one of the largest private airlifts in aviation history. The shear magnitude of this endeavor will, in no small way, rival the historic Berlin Airlift. It will differ in the fact that it will be conducted without the help of our nation's government or its military.

In this epic event, more than 1,800 special needs athletes from 35 states will be transported, by air, to Iowa to participate in the Special Olympics. This airlift will involve more than 300 Cessna Citations which will take-off or land every 60-90 seconds over a span of 12 hours across America, landing at the Des Moines International Airport.

To make this possible, hundreds of Cessna Citation business jet owners are donating their aircrafts, pilots, and fuel to carry these special athletes to the Special Olympics, allowing them to arrive rested and ready to compete. These games will take place in Ames, Iowa on the Iowa State University campus, where it is expected that more than 3,000 athletes will compete from all 50 states and more than 10,000 spectators from all around the country will attend this event. Competitions will include, swimming, track and field, basketball, gymnastics, power lifting, bowling, tennis, golf, softball, bocce ball, soccer, and volleyball.

The Special Olympics will take place July 2-7, 2006. The Texas team will depart from the San Antonio Airport and from Dallas Love Airport July 1. Prior to take-off, the athletes will gather for a send-off pizza party. Afterwards, Citation planes with passengers will depart every 10 minutes. It should also be noted that 50 other team members will depart out of Houston, on commercial flights, the same day. All athletes will return on July 8, 2006.

Our immediate representatives are Col. Lee Roper and his pilot, Ryan Burbaker. Col. Roper has been a local land developer and as well as a active participant or donator in other various charitable events for many years. I can't think of anyone that would better serve this particular event like Col. Roper. He, along with many others, are truly a "Good Samaritan with Wings"!

Also, Special Olympics in Texas has announced that Bexar County Sheriff's Deputy Joe Villarreal will participate in the first-ever United States Law Enforcement Torch Run. Deputy Villarreal has been involved with the Texas Law Enforcement Run for over 20 years. Villarreal has also supported the Special Olympics in many other ways and is highly deserving of this honor.

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