You Gotta Grab Life By the Wheel – Two Inspiring Wheelmobile Stories

We’ve already introduced you to Alexandria, the Wisconsin Rapids woman who won $17,500 in cash and prizes on Wheel of Fortune – after taking part in the Wheelmobile at our Oak Creek Steinhafels this past fall. Wheel of Fortune is currently in its 35th season, and we’re so excited to be part of the action!

UPDATE: This Thursday Night, Matt Pitton of Whitefish Bay won big on the national stage! Matt won $48,850 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Costa Rica, which should help with his upcoming nuptials! Matt is a physical therapist and a huge college basketball fan – always rooting for his alma mater, Marquette University. Matt says he’s been watching America’s Game® for the majority of his life. 

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Besides Matt and Alexandria, there are several other local contestants who made it all the way to Los Angeles to compete with Vanna and Pat on the big wheel in the last few weeks.

Eric and Kari are a couple from Racine.

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Lynelle lives in Waunakee, just north of Madison.

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Check out this video highlighting these big winners, and some of our favorite moments from the Steinhafels and CBS 58 Wheelmobile event:

Wheel Winners Kari and Lynelle took the time to answer some questions about the “Wheel of Fortune Experience.” It’s fun to see how their wheel journeys differ, and to learn a little more about what inspired them to throw caution to the wind and try out. One of the women didn’t even plan on attending Wheelmobile, and another sees her whirlwind win as just another sign that we all need to live life to the fullest – following a scary family illness.

Read on for their inspiring stories!!!

STEINHAFELS: First off, tell me briefly about yourself, and if you are a big Wheel fan.

LYNELLE: I was born in the Philippines and my family moved to Green Bay when I was 5 years old. I grew up in Green Bay, about a mile from Lambeau Field, but have never been to a Packers game! I currently live in Waunakee. I’ve been married to my husband Torben for 21 years, and have two smart and beautiful daughters. I am a part time para-educator at Waunakee High School – I supervise Junior/Senior study halls. In my free time, I Crossfit and volunteer for the Philippine-American Association of Madison and Neighboring Areas (PAMANA). I have watched Wheel of Fortune since I was young girl. It was always fun to try to solve the puzzles, but I never thought I would get on the show.

KARI: Eric is from Racine and I’m from Belgium, WI. We were married two years ago and have a six month old son named Magnus. I am currently a stay-at-home mom and Eric works in Sales. We have both watched Wheel of Fortune since we can remember. I recall even as a very young girl having it on TV. Eric’s first crush as a young boy was Vanna White! We watch the show now as a couple whenever we can. We enjoy trying to solve the puzzles before the contestants.

STEINHAFELS: What made you come out to the auditions at Steinhafels Oak Creek?

LYNELLE: I receive emails from the Wheel Watchers Club. In October 2017, I received an email saying that the Wheelmobile was coming to Oak Creek Steinhafels, and they were looking for contestants. They said that was the first time in 10 years they would be in the area. My family strongly encouraged I go, but I only wanted to go if my husband drove. I hate driving long distances, especially at night. On the day of the Friday, Oct. 27th Wheelmobile event, my husband was too busy at work to be able to leave at noon as planned. I told my younger daughter Ebba, who was coming with, that I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to drive home from Oak Creek at night. She strongly urged that we still go and reassured it would be OK driving back at night since she would be with me. After some thought, we ventured to Oak Creek. We allowed plenty of time to drive there in case of traffic. We arrived at 1:30 and found four other women waiting in line already. It was nice that it was at Steinhafels because we had couches to sit on while waiting!

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KARI: We had heard about the Wheelmobile being so close in Oak Creek and decided last minute to attend. We thought it would be an amazing opportunity, although unlikely we would get picked. We went in blind, not knowing what the process was going to entail. It was very fun and the hosts really tried to energize the crowd and keep it high-energy. When Eric’s name was pulled from the drum, I was just shocked. It was totally random out of hundreds of applications.

STEINHAFELS: When did you find out you got on the big show? What was your reaction?

LYNELLE: A few days after the Wheelmobile event in Oak Creek, I got an email inviting me to the second auditions in downtown Milwaukee, which was scheduled for a few weeks later. At that audition, we played quick versions of the game, but this time they called your name, you stood up enthusiastically, smiled and called out some letters. I only called out two letters. Next, we took a written test, which consisted of partially filled in puzzles.  We had to solve as many as we could in five minutes. I may have completed half of them. After the coordinators reviewed the tests and did some consulting, they came back in the room and asked some contestants to stay. I was not one of them and the rest of us went home. We were told that if we got on the show, we would get a letter in exactly two weeks. Well, that same evening, I got a call, but since I didn’t recognize the number, I didn’t answer it. They immediately called back and my husband told me to answer it, just in case it was Wheel of Fortune. So I answered the phone call and it was! They told me that my auditions were great and they wanted me in Los Angeles on December 1st to be on the show. I was ecstatic!

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KARI: The second audition was intense, lots of playing a mock version of the ‘Wheel,’ taking a quiz on our puzzle skills, sharing about ourselves with the group, etc. We spent about four hours at the audition and had a lot of fun. We thought we did well and let our personalities shine. They commented on our great teamwork while playing the game. It was just a matter of waiting to see if we got into the contestant pool. Well, the waiting wasn’t long. We received a call that evening asking us to be in L.A. in 13 days! I think I squealed when Eric got off the phone. I heard his conversation and knew he was talking to the ‘Wheel’ folks. We were beyond excited and booked our flights that night.

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STEINHAFELS: What was the show-taping process like? What were Pat and Vanna like? Were you nervous?

LYNELLE: The day of the taping, 20 contestants arrived at the studio at 7:45 a.m. (18 guaranteed on the show and 2 were alternates from the LA area). They were taping 6 shows that day. Immediately in the morning, we signed legal paperwork, mostly saying that we were not to let anyone know of the outcome of the show. After that, we had rehearsals. We got to be on the game platform and practiced spinning the wheel and calling out letters. We also did a promo video for our local station. The contestant coordinators were so helpful that day! They told us everything we needed to know.  They really made it comfortable for us to play the game.

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Pat and Vanna were really nice, pretty chill people. Pat really knows his stuff. He knows exactly what to say during the show, like when he makes his small comments during the game. He is pretty smooth. They are in person what they portray on TV. I was fortunate I got to chat with them at the end of the show.  

STEINHAFELS: Tell me how the show went down… were you nervous at all?

KARI: By the time the show was about to start, I was so nervous. We both promised each other to just have fun no matter the outcome, although we said we were going to win. :)

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We had studied a bit about letter frequency and some other game strategy so we had our ‘game-plan’ per say. We planned to rotate spinning the wheel but after the practice spin, I popped a blood vessel in my finger and was all swollen. This happened right before we were on so that’s why Eric spun every time. He did well I might add!

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STEINHAFELS: Were the puzzles hard? How is being ON the show different than solving puzzles at home?

LYNELLE: The puzzles on the show didn’t seem too hard, after the fact. I played on the Wheel of Fortune app for 2-3 hours a day for two weeks before being on the show. I played on the app to help me strategize and try to solve the puzzles with minimal letters. I practiced a lot with the bonus round puzzles, to see what additional letters I should call. The puzzles in the app seemed harder.

Being on the show is much more difficult than playing at home. There were so many things to remember – such as smile, clap, be clear on your letter calling, focus on solving the puzzle, look at the used letter board, etc. What was comforting is that, between each puzzle, we stepped down, took a breather and met with the contestant coordinators. They gave us water and advice, fanned us (because it was hot), and the makeup person powdered us. The contestant coordinators really did help us in so many ways that day of the show!

STEINHAFELS: Lynelle, you won it ALL, correct? What was that like? What was your final puzzle?

LYNELLE: Yes I won it all. I’ve watched my show many times already! I recently realized that I solved 5 of the 8 puzzles in the main game and also solved the bonus round puzzle which was ‘Family Physician.’  During the taping of the show, I didn’t realize I had solved that many puzzles!! I took it round by round. I didn’t know that Rei, the other female contestant, hit so many bankrupts – I was so lucky with that. I was just focused on solving the puzzles and didn’t really pay attention to much except for when Pat told me it was my turn. I was in a zone.

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STEINHAFELS: What were your total winnings? Have you been to St. Lucia before?

LYNELLE: My total winnings were $60,300 in cash and prizes. $50,800 in cash and $9,500 is the value of the St. Lucia trip. I’ve never been to St. Lucia before but had been to Aruba. I love the Caribbean and we are excited to bring our kids with us.

STEINHAFELS: Kari, this must be such a whirlwind for you and Eric. Besides the trip to Hawaii, any plans for what you’d like to do with your winnings?

KARI: What a fun, whirlwind of a time. We can’t wait to go to Hawaii to create even more memories as a family. It was really surreal and truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of the staff – Pat, Vanna, everyone along the way, were amazing and great to work with. We were very surprised to get asked to be on Wheel of Fortune and to have been blessed with this opportunity and our winnings. In a way we are not surprised at the unraveling of events. We tend to live life in the fast-lane so this is very typical of us. Eric had a very serious brain injury at the end of 2016. That accident really has changed our outlook on life and motivates us to live a life of spontaneity, adventure, and fun! Trying out for Wheel of Fortune was just that.

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STEINHAFELS: Lynelle, any other big plans for what you’d like to do with your winnings?

LYNELLE: When I won the bonus round and saw the $35,000, the first thing that popped in my head was, ‘Yes – College tuition! Seriously!’ Majority of the winnings will go to college tuition/funds and house maintenance/landscaping. We are going to let our younger daughter pick out the tile for our kitchen backsplash. She’s a big HGTV fan!

STEINHAFELS: What was it like watching yourselves on TV?

KARI: It was entertaining to watch the show with family when it aired. Only a few knew we were going to be on the show, and nobody knew the outcome which made it so fun to witness their true reactions. It was so hard to keep it a secret for the six weeks between filming it and the show airing. Our friends and family were so happy for us. We felt privileged to represent Wisconsin and our town, Racine, in a positive way.

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STEINHAFELS: Final question – are you going to check out a Steinhafels store again sometime?

LYNELLE: Well, I would love some new furniture! :)

I think that after reading about both of these women’s journeys, most of us can agree that life is short, and we need to take a leap of faith sometimes. Congrats Lynelle, Kari, and Eric – you showed the nation how awesome Wisconsinites are, and made us proud.

Have a fabulous time on your trips to much warmer climates, and stay in touch.

And good luck to Matt on Thursday! Let’s get another big win for a Wisconsinite!

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UPDATE: Wisconsin Rapids Woman WINS BIG on Wheel of Fortune after Steinhafels Wheelmobile

UPDATE Tues 1/23: Alex won BIG on Wheel of Fortune last Thursday!! She ended up winning a $10,000 trip to South America and $7,500 in cash. She was the big winner that night and went to the bonus round. Unfortunately, she didn’t solve the puzzle, but still walked away with $17,500 in cash prizes and memories that will last a lifetime.

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Alex had a viewing party at Layla’s Pub in Wisconsin Rapids, and shared a few pictures with us. She says, “As far as the viewing party goes, it was incredible! It was so surreal to be surrounded by friends and family and to share my Wheel of Fortune experience with them. We had a big screen and projected the show onto it so everyone could see.”

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CONGRATS ALEX!!! We are so happy for you.

Original Blog Post:

If you’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune lately, and it seems like a lot of folks from Wisconsin are venturing out to Los Angeles for warmth and winnings, you’re not mistaken!

Several contestants from our Steinhafels/CBS 58 Wheelmobile event last October have already met Pat and Vanna, and had some success on the Wheel. We’ll hear more from them in a future blog post. However, today let’s meet Alexandria from Wisconsin Rapids. Her big episode is set to air this coming Thursday, January 18 (check your local listings). We are so excited to see if Alexandria can hit it big on the Wheel!

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Alexandria can’t tell us how she did, but she did take a few minutes to talk with us about this once in a lifetime experience – that all started at the Wheelmobile auditions at our Steinhafels Superstore in Oak Creek. Hundreds came out to audition, but only a handful made it to callbacks, and even fewer to the big show. Here’s a look at the process through the eyes of an actual contestant!

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Steinhafels: Tell us briefly about yourself – where were you born and raised, and are you a big Wheel of Fortune fan?

Alexandria: I was born and raised in Wisconsin Rapids. I am a Marketing Manager at a veterinary clinic, and a huge Wheel of Fortune fan! Growing up my family loved watching and playing along while the Wheel was on every night.

S: Are you excited to see your episode this Thursday (1/18)? Do you have a viewing party planned?

A: I am super excited to watch my episode air! I told my sister that I hope I didn’t make a fool of myself, and she said probably no more than usual. We’re going to have a viewing party at Layla’s Pub in Wisconsin Rapids. It’ll be great to finally be able to share my entire experience with everyone!

S: What made you come out to the auditions at Steinhafels Oak Creek?

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A: I didn’t actually know the Wheelmobile was coming to Steinhafels Oak Creek until a couple days beforehand! My sister saw that it would be there on the news, and once she told me I knew I had to go. My parents decided they wanted to see the Wheelmobile too, so we all headed to Oak Creek on Friday!

S: What did you think of the audition process?

A: I had no idea what to expect once we arrived at Steinhafels Oak Creek, but was amazed with the audition process. There was so much energy in the room and everyone was so excited to be there! Once we put our names in the bingo drum it was left up to chance. Almost halfway through the first audition set they called my dad’s name and I couldn’t have been more excited. Two rounds after that, they called my name! I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe it. What were the chances that out of all the Wheel fans there, both of us would get called on stage?! From there, it was like playing a mini game of Wheel of Fortune. I only called one letter and didn’t solve the puzzle, but it was so much fun. We had an amazing time and talked about it the entire ride home.

S: Did you think you would make it on the show?

A: I had no idea! I just tried to be myself and make logical choices when it came to calling letters, and the rest was out of my hands.

S: They had a finalist event here in Milwaukee after the auditions, correct? How did you do at that?

A: I received an email asking me to come to the finalist audition a few days after the Wheelmobile was at Steinhafels Oak Creek. That audition was definitely harder than the one at Steinhafels Oak Creek! I thought that I did pretty good and that maybe, if I was lucky, I would get to be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune.

S: When did you find out you got on the big show? What was your reaction?

A: A week after the final audition in Milwaukee I received a call asking if I was available to come out to tape the show two weeks later! I was completely shocked and couldn’t wrap my head around what just happened. At that moment, I realized I was going to be an actual contestant on the Wheel of Fortune!

S: It’s a pretty quick turnaround. Was there any doubt you would go, or did you just say ‘yes’ and make it happen?

A: Once I got the call I immediately said yes. Being on the Wheel of Fortune is a once in a lifetime opportunity and there was no way I was passing that up. That meant two weeks to get everything in order and then head out to California!

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S: What was the show-taping process like, including Pat and Vanna – what were they like?

A: I arrived at the studio the morning of the taping and was awestruck. I knew the whole day was going to be a blur and that I just needed to take everything in. Once all the contestants arrived and we were finished with hair and makeup it was time to see our biggest competition of the day – the wheel. Words can’t even describe walking out onto the set for the first time! It was magical. While we were out there, Vanna showed up! She congratulated us all for making it to the big show and wished us all luck – can you say star struck! Vanna, Pat, and everyone at the studio were incredibly nice. They wanted you to be the best wheel player you could be, and were there to cheer you on through the entire process.

S: Did you have fun in LA? Any memorable moment you want to share?

A: Going to LA was such a great experience, but even more so because I was able to share it with my mom. We went around her birthday so we used that as a ruse for our trip. Neither of us had ever been there and we dove in head first. We spent time in Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills; and were able to see and do so many things! Taping the Wheel of Fortune was definitely my favorite part, but we also had a special 50th birthday dinner for my mom. We made some new friends, had some cocktails, and she was surprised with a sparkler topped slice of cheesecake complete with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’

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S: I know you can’t tell us how you did, but are you happy you did it?

A: Being on the Wheel of Fortune is a once in a lifetime experience, so that alone was absolutely priceless. I know that I did my best, and that’s something I can be happy with!

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No matter the outcome on Thursday, you’re a star to us Alexandria!

Stay tuned to the Steinhafels Blog for more profiles about Wheel contestants, and keep an eye out on social media – we’ll try to post before local contestants appear on the show.