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The Day Jane Pauley’s Producer Called

Overcoming Gravity
Overcoming Gravity

Sometimes when you least expect it, wonderful things happen to your business.
Take what happened on a Tuesday morning back in 1989. I was in a staff meeting when my secretary came in and told me I needed to take a call, which was pretty unusual. But the call was pretty unusual too!

The woman on the phone was the production manager for the Jane Pauley Show, a relatively new talk show that was running during daytime TV. She told me she wanted to meet the man in a wheelchair who worked as a plane marshaller. She wanted to get him on the show to talk about his work.

I was baffled.

I told her I was pretty sure she had the wrong number, wished her luck in finding whoever it was she was looking for, and went back to my meeting.

For those of you unfamiliar with airplane runway traffic management, ‘marshallers’ are the people who use hand-held flight lights with red and clear lenses. They walk backwards, signaling the pilots and guide the planes into the gates. And according to Jane Pauley’s production manager, I should know who, and what she was talking about.

A short time later, the woman called back. She asked, “Was this the Chinook Enterprises that did work for the Boeing Company?” I said, “Yes, but again, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

She then explained that she was referring to the FULL-PAGE BOEING AD, on page three of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, which featured Chinook Enterprises. The ad featured an image of a man in a wheelchair working as a plane marshaller. She added, “I am practically crying, this is so cool. I have got to talk to this guy!”

I told her I’d have to call her back.

I raced down to Scotts Bookstore—the only place I knew that might have the Wall Street Journal. Sure enough, on page three was this great ad entitled, ‘Overcoming Gravity’. I was awestruck. The ad was in the New York Times the next day and in both papers the next week too. I bought all the copies I could get my hands on.

Although it looked real enough, it turned out that the plane marshaller in the wheelchair, was not a real person. It was a gifted artist’s imagination at work. The image was a powerful representation of what Chinook, and other companies like ours, strive to accomplish in creating employment opportunities for the people we serve.

In the following weeks, I received all sorts of calls from people wanting to know what we did to get BOEING to publish the ad featuring Chinook. Unfortunately, I had no idea. All I could think of was that several months prior, we had suggested that BOEING’s public relation’s team might want to run a story in the local papers spotlighting organizations like ours who were making airplane parts, as we thought It might generate partnership opportunities with other manufacturers. The next thing I knew the Jane Pauley show was calling!

It was a great ad that suggested limitless possibilities for people with disabilities—which is still absolutely spot-on.