Aircraft had to be rerouted to other runways last Sunday as 118 people charged onto the tarmac behind Building 14 at Kennedy Airport, but everything was fine.
Sunday was the 15th running of the JFK Rotary Club’s 10K Runway Run, billed as the only race in the world held on an airport runway. The 6.2-mile event raised approximately $8,500 for the Rotary’s Gift of Life program and other charities.
The JFK Rotary has 25 members who meet once a week at the Radisson Hotel on 136th Street and North Conduit near the airport.
Because the group is based at the airport and has good relations with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport, and the various airlines at the airport, it can easily arrange to transport sick children to the United States for operations or medical treatments.
Member Bill Folz said that Rotary International identifies a child, for instance, in Honduras or Mexico who needs a heart operation. In many cases, the type of sophisticated medical treatment the child needs to save his or her life is just not available in that country.
So Rotary will make the arrangements to transport the child here and pay for the medical expenses, Folz said.
Since the Runway Race is a charity, the PA rerouted planes to a different a runway for about three hours.
On a Sunday morning, traffic at the airport is light, Folz said, so the PA had little difficulty in rerouting planes to other runways for the short time the runners were on the blacktop.
The runway that was used, Folz said, was behind the building used by the now defunct Tower Airlines.
“They let us use the runway, but we can’t abuse it,” he said.
The runners take off from the building, run out onto the runway and circle a plane parked about 2.5 miles from the building to mark the halfway point.
“The runners get a kick out of it,” Folz said.
Turnout for the race, however, was disappointing, he said. In past years, 150 to 300 people were entered. He attributed the low turnout to a late change for the race date from June to April. Prizes for the race included donated trips for two to various destinations. The trips were donated by the airlines.
Brian Early, the Rotary member who helped organize the run, said the race “went well” except for a slight, 10-minute delay at the beginning of the race because a plane was being taxied through the course.
“That’s something you don’t see at most other races,” Early said.
He added that the PA and the Federal Aviation Administration was helpful in arranging the diversion of aircraft from the runway.
“They’re willing to help because they know us,” he said.
The Runway Run is just one of many fundraising events the Rotary holds each year.
The next fundraiser will be a casino boat ride slated for June 15th. The boat will leave from Freeport, Long Island, and Folz said he expects 400 people will attend.
Early said the Rotary also raises funds for a college scholarship for the children of airport workers based on need. During the end of year holiday season, the group also holds an event at a Delta Airlines hanger for disabled children.
Last year, the group was able to raise $5,000 for a child who needed heart surgery and sent tons of clothing to earthquake victims in Central America.
For more information about the Rotary, contact Folz at 848-0679.