Chicago Air and Water Show 2018: Special Olympics coach Kate Grant honored as Hometown Her

Chicago air and water show, chicago air show, hometown hero air show, hometown hero special Olympics, hometown hero, chicago park district employee honored, chicago park district
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Special Olympics of Chicago coach Kate Grant flew with Thunderbird 7, U.S. Air Force Major Eric Gorney, on Thursday as this year's Hometown Hero ahead of this weekend's 60th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. Gorney took Grant through several maneuvers that the team performs.

"It was incredible," said Grant after the flight out of Gary, Indiana. She added "there's no way that you can prepare for something like that so I didn't know how I would react. But I think I did pretty good."

She did well enough to have "pulled nine Gs" and even had the chance to fly the plane herself for a few minutes!

More on Kate's story

Kate Grant, a Chicago Park District special recreation coordinator, has been with the park for nearly 16 years and has a special connection to the Special Olympics - her uncle, Michael Cusack, is an original athlete from the 1968 games.

EMBED More News Videos

Kate Grant, a Special Olympics coach and Chicago Park District special recreation coordinator, will be honored as part of the Chicago Air & Water Show's Hometown Hero program.

Grant is a coach for more than 15 Special Olympic sports -- a job she loves dearly.

RELATED: 60th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show Week

"I definitely have received far more than I have given in this job," she said.

Her connection to the park district goes back to her childhood.

Her mother worked with the district in the Special Recreation Department and she now the special recreation coordinator at McGuane Park in the city's Bridgeport neighborhood.

RELATED: Warbird Heritage Foundation Museum in Waukegan features historic military planes

This week, she will be honored for her dedication and passion as a Hometown Hero with a once-in-a-lifetime ride with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds on Thursday at the Gary Jet Center.
"Oh boy! I mean I'm not a bad flyer, I'm not afraid of heights, I like roller coasters so I think I'm a good candidate but I guess you're never know until you do it, so I'm excited," Grant said.

The honor is part of the Chicago air show's Hometown Hero Program, which is designed to highlight Chicagoans doing good things in their communities. Local heroes receive a one-hour Thunderbird orientation flight in one of the world's premiere fighter jets - the Lockheed Martin F-16D.

Grant said she sees this honor as a chance to set an example.

"I think a huge part of my job here is to encourage and coach people to try new things so I think it's my job now it's my turn to do something new so I'm just trying to show my athletes that I'm going to honor the Special Olympics oath and be brave in the attempt that it," Grant said. "Brave in the attempt, it's all I can do."
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.