Small community rallies around "Team Bullwinkle"

Nearly half of Friesland attends event to honor resident

Published On: Apr 29 2013 12:59:26 AM CDT   Updated On: Apr 29 2013 01:04:15 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Madison's annual Purple Stride 5K and walk took place at Warner Park on Sunday.

Teams raised money to support pancreatic cancer research.

Walt Wiersma from Friesland brought together his entire community, as a team nicknamed "Team Bullwinkle," in search of a cure.

Turns out that moniker has nothing to do with a certain moose and his flying squirrel friend.

"Back 30 years ago when I drove a semi, we all had CB handles, and mine was 'Bullwinkle,'" explained Wiersma.

Back then Wiersma never thought that so many of his friends and family would co-opt it in his honor.

"Everybody's family to us, so we've got friends, we've got family here, and it's awesome how everybody came out to support Walter," said niece Jennifer Ebert.

Team Bullwinkle had the strongest showing of the day with no fewer than 150 members all supporting Walt at Sunday’s Purple Stride 5K and Walk.

The annual event has raised nearly $200,000 to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

It’s a disease Walt is all too familiar with.

"About five months ago, I had the surgery," explained Wiersma.

According to his niece, Walt is known around Friesland – a small community of about 300 – or his helping hands.

"He'll drive by in the neighborhood and if somebody's outside, he'll actually stop," said Ebert.

Nearly half that community showed up at Purple Stride to return Walt’s kindness.

"We're kind of speechless with the amount of support we've received from everybody in the community, but it does speak to Wally and his personality," said Ebert.

What Walt's future holds isn't certain, but that hasn't changed his outlook on life.

"My message is take one day at a time and hope it goes for the best," said Walt.

Walt and Team Bullwinkle raised $10,000 on Sunday for Purple Stride, the second-highest team amount.

More than 2,000 people participated in the event.