Gail Halvorsen may be 97, but he doesn’t let that keep him from his long-standing tradition of “candy bombing” special events by throwing candy bars with mini parachutes from airplanes.

Hundreds of families and children gathered Saturday at the Spanish Fork-Springville Airport — the future home of an aviation center and museum dedicated to Halvorsen — to collect the 500 candy bars Halvorsen threw from a helicopter attached to mini, white parachutes.

The practice of throwing candy from airplanes started back in 1948, during the Berlin Airlift. U.S. and British pilots airdropped more than 2 million tons of supplies to the city of West Berlin, Germany, though Halvorsen got a bit more creative with the mission by deciding to drop candy to children.

A facility dedicated to Halvorsen is currently slated to begin construction at the end of this year at the Spanish Fork-Springville Airport, and this candy-dropping event served as a kind of official kick off for the project.

An official groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13, and several events to get Halvorsen out in the community will also be held between now and then.

But the funding for the Halvorsen museum isn’t all in place yet, and those behind the plans are hoping to get the remainder of the money needed as quickly as possible.

“I have a dream that my friend, Grandpa Gail, is going to be with us when we dedicate that building,” said a choked-up Angela Davidson, community relations coordinator for the Gail Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation. “He’s 97 and a half, so we gotta get going. I told him that if he’ll stay with us, we’ll work super fast and get it done. We’re gonna do that. So we invite those of you who want to help us to help us.”

People can help by spreading the word about the aviation center, Davidson said, or by donating via thecandybomber.org/contribute, where those who wish can buy a brick for $250.

The project has three separate purposes: first is the Candy Bomber Museum, which will be dedicated to Halvorsen’s life.

“Gail is always telling everyone the true way to be happy is to serve other people,” Davidson said. “And we want to tell that story, and we’ll teach some history while we’re at it too.”

The second scope of the project is to create a home for the local Civil Air Patrol squadron, who currently doesn’t have a place to house its planes or hold its weekly cadet meetings. Halvorsen was a member of the Civil Air Patrol before he joined the military, and credits CAP with getting him into the aviation business.

Third, the project aims to create a STEM education center for the community, covering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s the kind of learning center that when your kids say, ‘I don’t want to do my math homework today,’ you say, ‘Fine, we’re going to get in the car and head out to the Candy Bomber Museum,’” Davidson said. “And you can come have some STEM learning moments and get in the flight simulators and help them understand a little more about why they might want to do their math.”

Multiple local leaders attended to celebrate the proposed center, including U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, who rode with Halvorsen in the helicopter as he was performing his candy drop.

“It’s an honor of a lifetime for me to actually being here today,” Lee said, before going up in the chopper. “To be flying a mission — a candy-bombing mission with Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber — and I couldn’t be more pleased.”