Culver\'s

Kristin Pennycuff was more than happy to wait in a half-hour line Wednesday.

"We knew it was going to be long," she said.

The line wound around the inside of a Culver’s in Waukesha, which was packed with people. Outside, a queue of cars snaked around the building and out onto Grandview Boulevard, where it blocked a lane of traffic.

Everyone was there to support the victims of Sunday’s attack that left at least six dead and more than 60 injured when a man in a red Ford Escape barreled through the Waukesha Christmas parade

"It’s been like this all day," said Waukesha Xtreme Dance Team Director Sandy Feller, who had been there since about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. "I didn’t expect this."

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The Culver’s on Grandview Boulevard pledged to give 50% of Wednesday’s profits to the Xtreme Dance Team, whose members are among the most seriously injured. Feller said the money would go to the families of the critically injured girls. 

About 30 girls with Xtreme Dance performed at the parade Sunday, Feller said. As of Tuesday, five remained in the intensive care unit at Children’s Wisconsin. They have suffered severe head injuries, internal injuries, broken bones and other injuries. 

But even those who weren't physically harmed are hurting. Feller said she, coaches and parents are only beginning to understand the mental trauma the girls have suffered and what they need to heal.

Besides raising money for the girls, the Culver’s benefit was also a place for the injured dancers’ teammates to come together.

"I think it was good for the girls," Feller said. "I think it was therapeutic for all the kids to be together."

Charley Weiland, one of the dancers at the parade, was at Culver’s with her parents, Warren and Claudia.

"I’m just worried about my friends," she said.

Warren said that his daughter did not smile until Tuesday evening, when Xtreme Dance held a private event for the dancers and their parents to come and be together.

"Ever since that, she’s been a lot happier," he said. "That’s why we’re here, to see other people."

Warren said they’re trying to take it one day at a time. On Wednesday, they stood in line, waiting to order. Charley said she wanted to help raise money to get her friends out of the hospital. She planned to order custard and fries.

Feller said the outpouring of support from the community, including the dance community, has been overwhelming. The Waukesha West Dance Team and Starz Dance Academy pitched in to buy Build-A-Bears for the girls, which Feller handed out to them Wednesday at Culver’s. Even the older girls loved the teddy bears, she said.

'A beautiful thing'

Michele Kieckhaefer usually doesn’t eat fast food, but on Wednesday, she did.

"I want to be here to give hope to other people," she said.

She knows people who were hurt, including a friend’s daughter who is on the Xtreme Dance Team.

Her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren also were at the parade and narrowly avoided injury.

The vehicle "came within arms’ reach of my family and my grandchildren," she said, her eyes welling with tears.

Her grandchildren are too young to know what was happening, but she said her son and daughter-in-law were "traumatized" and "very shook up."

"People need to feel safe again," she said. "It’s going to take a lot of love and patience and prayer."

Tim Jones, of Waukesha, was in line at Culver’s not far behind Kieckhaefer.

He was at the parade with his wife and two oldest children, ages 6 and 8, when the vehicle ran into people nearby.

"You’re in shock," he said. "You can’t believe what you just saw."

He and his wife, who works in a hospital, stayed to help the people who had been hit.

He said his two oldest are struggling.

"Every day is a different question. … 'Why?' 'Will it happen again?' " he said.

But he praised the "extraordinarily good job" done by the principal, counselors and others at Meadowbrook Elementary, where they go to school and have been receiving help.

Abbey and George Sweezey, of Waukesha, were also at the parade with their three children.

Two of them were in the middle of the road, looking for candy, when the vehicle sped by, Abbey said. Suddenly, she heard a lot of screaming. 

No one in their family was physically hurt, but the experience was traumatizing. Feeling unsafe, they sheltered for a while in a nearby coffee shop.

"It was terrible," she said.

She felt better being at Culver’s Wednesday, with the rest of the community.

"This is really a beautiful thing to experience," she said.

Becca Rodefer, of Waukesha, was not at the parade but could imagine what it must have been like. 

"I was in the color guard at Waukesha North," she said. "I couldn’t stop imagining it being my band or my friends."

It was uplifting, though, to see the sheer number of people who turned out at Culver's.

"It made me smile so big, the fact that we can come together like this," she said.

The Xtreme Dance Team has a verified GoFundMe account that as of late Wednesday had raised nearly $94,000. Several of the injured dancers also have individual, verified GoFundMe accounts.

Feller did not immediately have a total Wednesday evening of the amount raised at the Culver's benefit.

Sarah Volpenhein is a Report for America corps reporter who focuses on news of value to underserved communities for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Email her at [email protected]. Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible gift to this reporting effort at JSOnline.com/RFA.

Source : https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2021/11/25/waukesha-culvers-benefit-xtreme-dancers-icu-draws-huge-crowds/8757552002/

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