In Search Of…Wheel of Todd
One family is honoring their son by gifting an amazing Packers experience
EASTMAN, Wis. (WKBT) — In a land full of Packers fanatics, Todd Bell of Eastman, Wisconsin was one of the biggest of all. His parents Craig and Julie Bell recall, “when they were losing he would say ‘turn it off.’ So I would and then ‘what are you doing?!?! The packers are on!!”
To say the packers were a lifeline for Todd is in no way an exaggeration. “He absolutely loved life and he did love the Packers.”
Todd was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Duchenne’s. “There is no cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. So it basically is a death sentence. There life expectancy in anywhere from mid-teens to mid 20’s.”
He was diagnosed at 5, in a wheel chair by 10, but would always find joy watching his beloved packers. And the handful of times they were actually able to get handicap tickets to a game sent Todd over the moon. “He got to experience stuff that he thought was unobtainable being in a wheel chair. ‘I get to go to a Packers game!”
Each time he went, they’d tailgate the day away, always making the most of Todd’s limitations. “Todd would sometimes get bored not being able to do what everyone else was doing. Being the crazy dad that I am, I went and borrowed a paper plate and I marked it up like a dart board and I taped it to the wheel of his wheel chair. He became a human roulette wheel. We sent him all throughout the parking lot and when he stopped the number closest to the bottom was the winner. Instead of Wheel of Fortune we called it Wheel of Todd.”
For Todd and his dad, being at Lambeau helped them forget if even for a few hours the reality that always waited back at home. Which is why what happened next was so difficult to hear. “In 2011 the Packers sent us a letter saying they no longer would sell single game tickets. We had to apply for season tickets. Todd was just distraught.”
They knew their chances were slim but had to at least try. “They had a drawing, he didn’t get it. He was 18th on the list. In 2012 Todd got a postcard in the mail stating that he had advanced to number one on the waiting list. But sadly…”
Sadly, one months later Todd passed away. “And we buried him in a Packers jersey.”
But instead of turning down those handicap seats so hard to get, they remembered a conversation with Todd about sharing the experience. “When we applied for the tickets I talked to Todd and said, what do you think if I donated the tickets to someone else like you. He said ‘that would be so cool.'” And that’s where Wheel of Todd was born. For the past three years, when each game rolls around Todd’s tickets are donated to a child with muscular dystrophy. “Not only do we give them the tickets, we give them a motel room for two nights. We give them $300 to spend on souvenirs or anything they want.”
And to top that off, with no tickets of their own, the Bell’s make the drive to Green Bay every time to tailgate with the kids. “We only get two tickets so any other family that comes we sit out in the parking lot and watch the game with them. We have a banner with their name on it and when they come wheeling in everyone is whooping a hollering. The parents are all crying and the kids are just looking around they are having a blast.”
“I was really amazed. It was pretty cool,” says Kaleb Fulbrecht of Wauzecka who was on the receiving end of this awesome gift. “I was surprised and excited because I didn’t really know if they were going to pick me and they came up and said we’d really like you to go so I was so excited.”
His parents we overwhelmed by the generosity. “We’re going to send you and give you money and a hotel stay and Lambeau field and we were like are you serious?! There’s a huge sign and his picture was by the sign and they have food and drinks and just celebrated with us. When we got into our seats and we had all this room and to watch the game itself was unbelievable. You are just so grateful and it’s hard to put that into words”
For the Bell’s, witnessing each child’s experience feels a little like seeing the game through Todd’s eyes all over again. “He loved it so much that we wanted other people to know what it was like for him To share the joy that he had and see these kids obtain the unobtainable to go to a game and see what he saw. He would love it. He would love it.
If you would like to help out the Wheel of Todd organization, there’s a couple of ways you can. Either send a check to either of the addresses below:
Craig and Julie Bell
115 Sheridon Rd.
Eastman, WI 54626.
Peoples State Bank
PO Box 299
Prairie Du Chien, WI 53821
You can also find that information on our website ‘www.news8000.com.’