Pulling for Wishes
8th Annual Event Takes Off April 21
Writer: Suzanne Huntzinger
Photography provided by Pulling for Wishes
Fasten your seatbelts, check your exits, we’re cleared for takeoff for the 8th annual Pulling for Wishes event, Saturday, April 21 from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon at Republic Airways Hangar, 2745 S. Hoffman Road, Indianapolis, at the Indianapolis International Airport Maintenance Center.
The event, which benefits the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and Riley Children’s Foundation, is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Frenzel. Tyler passed away in December 2004 at the age of nine after a two-year battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Now, more than 13 years since his passing, Tyler’s family has remained closely involved with the event to ensure his legacy lives on.
“He changed a lot of people’s lives in his short time,” says Tyler’s mom, Pam. Though the Pulling for Wishes event has largely remained the same since its inception in 2011, those close to Tyler will never forget all that changed when he was diagnosed with ALL.
Tyler’s battle began at just seven years old. After being diagnosed with ALL, he responded well to the treatment protocol and even achieved remission. The Frenzels, who still live in Carmel, went on a vacation to Walt Disney World, courtesy of the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund. Sadly, when they returned home for a check-up, doctors found the leukemia had returned.
After a bone marrow transplant and stem cell transplant, he improved, but by the fall of 2004, Tyler relapsed. In the wake of the battle, Tyler began to build an amazing legacy that is still felt today.
Peyton Manning met Tyler while at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. Manning frequently checked in on Tyler, and even bought him cakes on his birthday, invited him to practice and to various charity events. St. Louis Cardinals baseball player Scott Rolen also befriended Tyler through the E5 Foundation. Rolen and his brother Todd bought property near Bloomington and developed it into a camp, giving children and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses a much-needed retreat. They named it Camp Emma Lou.
Rolen visited Tyler occasionally. They would play baseball video games together, and Rolen even gave Tyler a special glove. Tyler told both Rolen and Manning that he had a dream of building a treehouse where children faced with illnesses like his own could go and play and feel free.
“Tyler had a special bond with Peyton and Scott,” Pam says. “But it wasn’t just because they were famous. He cared about his relationship with them, not the name dropping.”
After learning of Tyler’s death on December 11, 2004, Manning and Rolen sprung into action, organizing a massive fundraiser held just a week and a half after Tyler’s passing. With the help of Q95 radio personalities, Bob and Tom, Manning and Rolen helped launch the auction of a set of experiences with Colts players. They raised more than $200,000, and Tyler’s Treehouse was built at Camp Emma Lou, giving thousands of children 3,000 square feet of countless hours of enjoyment.
In the days following Tyler’s passing, amidst their grief, the Frenzel family drew upon their faith to help them get through and live life as Tyler had lived his.
“He was such a great kid, so full of wisdom, faith and courage,” Pam says. “I just kept reminding myself God granted me the amazing gift to be the mother of this child.”
The family was blessed with another amazing gift after Tyler’s death. They adopted a son, JT, from Russia.
The many blessings motivated the Frenzel family to give back. Inspired by Tyler’s charitable spirit, the family decided to hold the Sunflowers in December event to raise money for Tyler’s favorite charities. From 2006 to 2010, they raised thousands of dollars for The Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, Scott Rolen’s E5 Foundation and others. After the conclusion of the 2010 event, the family felt it was time to expand their efforts. A month later, the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund approached the Frenzels about holding an airplane pull, the Pulling for Wishes event, with the help of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways.
Pam describes the inaugural event as simple, starting with just 25 teams competing. Though the event has grown to be the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund’s biggest fundraising event and now includes a pre-event gala, many attractions and associated activities, the organizers have largely kept to tradition. To enter your team in the pull, you must gather 10 people (at least three women must be on the team to win prizes) and choose a sponsorship level to contribute that matches the number of funds your team has raised.
Sponsorships are available from $500 up to $50,000. The team who pulls the 24-ton Embraer jet 15 feet the fastest wins 10 round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines. Last year’s winner crossed the line in 7.34 seconds.
“The greatest thing about this event is that it’s unique,” Pam says. “It’s not the typical walk or run. All the proceeds go to grant wishes.”
More than 40 teams are expected to enter this year’s event, and most will be in costume. Some of those teams are from the Frenzel family.
“My husband, Eric, is with the Carmel Fire Department and he always recruits a group,“ Pam says. “Our kids, Maria, Kasey and JT also organize teams.”
The event is free for spectators and has plenty of fun in store, like a fantastic kids’ entertainment zone with a bounce house, games, cake walk, costume contest, magicians and more. Guests can bid on items up for grabs at the silent auction, too. This year’s fundraising goal is to beat last year’s total of nearly $500,000.
Whether you want to come out to cheer on your favorite team or you want to participate, don’t miss out. Visit indywish.org/events/41 for more details about the event and team entry forms.