Charity proposes airport footrace

MARTINSBURG — A local charity is proposing to organize a certified footrace in September 2020 on the runway of the Altoona-Blair County Airport.

With consent from the Federal Aviation Admin­istra­tion, the proposed event could generate money for the organizer, the nonprofit Giorgio Children’s Foundation of Duncansville, as well as set aside a portion of race proceeds to benefit the financially-strapped airport.

“I think it will be a win-win for everybody,” airport Manager Tracy Plessinger told the airport authority, which agreed Monday night that the foundation should keep working on the project.

Foundation representative Ben Stapelfeld Sr. said he and other family members recently attended a certified footrace at an airport in Virginia. There were runners at that race, he said, who signed up because it was being held at an airport.

“I think people are going to like it,” Stapelfeld said. “And if shows any modicum of success in year one, then we’ll continue it.”

Airport Authority Vice Chairman Herb Bolger, who chaired Monday’s authority meeting, said he sees the potential for both groups to benefit.

Stapelfeld admitted that the Giorgio Children’s Foundation has never organized a race. But he said the foundation is willing to do the work involved with marketing the event to attract racers and vendors. He told the authority that the airport would receive 20 percent of the race and vendor fees.

The foundation also will sell corporate sponsorships in support of the event. That money, Stapelfeld said, will be earmarked toward the foundation’s purpose: medical research to cure neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder allowing tumors to grow anywhere on a body.

Plessinger said the foundation will need to get the FAA’s blessing on the event because the airport’s runways will need to be closed temporarily. The airport also will need to set aside parking and make its restrooms available to runners and visitors.

Stapelfeld said that the effort, to do it right, is going to take some time to set up, which is why the event is being proposed for more than a year from now.

“If you allow us to do this,” Stapelfeld told the airport authority, “we’ll make you proud.”

“And I think we’ll make you proud,” Bolger told Stapelfeld.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 936-7456.

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