More than 70 paper airplanes took flight at McCarran International Airport during the seventh annual Paper Plane Palooza on Wednesday.
Seventy children affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada created paper airplanes and competed in distance and accuracy challenges with their paper airplanes.
The first Paper Plane Palooza was hosted to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Terminal 3 opening in 2012, and has since become a tradition between the airport and the Boys & Girls Clubs, said Rosemary Vassiliadis, McCarran director of aviation.
“It brings the McCarran family together in such a heartwarming, generous effort,” Vassiliadis said.
The kids were divided into 14 teams, each coached by members of the airport community, including airline staff, Metropolitan Police Department officers and Transportation Security Administration officers.
The mentors helped kids fold their airplanes and taught them about their jobs and the aerodynamics that make flying planes possible.
Wednesday’s event marked transportation security officer Nigiculela Jones’ first time as a mentor. She said she was excited to see the kids interested in learning about her job and what it entails.
“They get to hang around people they look up to,” Jones said. “And seeing different avenues they can take in their life is a good opportunity for them.”
The event allows the children — some of whom have never visited an airport before — to learn about the broader community and the variety of jobs available if they should want to work at the airport, said Andy Bischel, chief executive officer of the local Boys & Girls Clubs.
“Getting them out of their neighborhoods and seeing how this community is put together and how it all works, that’s really what this is about,” Bischel said.
Each child went home with a backpack filled with school supplies, clothing, nonperishable food and other items as they prepare to head back to school in August.
Winners of the events also received small prizes, including stuffed animals and poker chips with first, second and third place written on them, Vassiliadis said.
Many of the airport’s partners donated items for the backpacks, and 250 packages will be sent back to the Boys & Girls Clubs for kids unable to attend the event.
“It’s really turned into this wonderful outreach from the McCarran community,” Vassiliadis said. “If we’re able to make a difference to these kids, that’s the best thing we can do.”