Wohlers Walkway Provides Safety for Pedestrians After Tragedy
When a tragic hit-and-run accident lead to one young man’s death, his friends banded together to create a solution that would prevent others from experiencing the same pain.
Kathy Olson, teller
Darci Eggen, VP/commercial banker
Tyler Wohlers Walkway
Ottertail County, Minn.
Independence Day 2019 started out exactly how the Wohlers family enjoys – smiling and laughing with friends and family at their favorite place on Pickerel Lake in Ottertail County, Minn. But just a couple days later, the same family would mourn the death of 21-year-old Tyler Wohlers – after he was killed in a hit-and-run accident on the side of County Highway 78 in lakes country.
In the midst of mourning, Tyler’s friends banded together to make an impact, asking themselves a hard question – what can we do to prevent another tragedy?
“No parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, teammate, etc. should have to experience such a tragedy,” the family wrote on their GoFundMe page. “This is how the Wohlers Walkway came to be. Our hope is to give Ottertail a safe walking path that everyone can enjoy.”
A busy road that connects Battle Lake and Ottertail, Minn., Highway 78 is used by tourists and residents alike to walk, run and bike on beautiful summer days. To prevent another accident, Tyler’s friends came up with the idea to construct a walkway that would separate pedestrians from the highly trafficked road.
With approval from Ottertail City Council and the Department of Transportation, Tyler’s friends began fundraising to meet their goal of $75,000 that would benefit the walkway – an estimated $210,000 project.
As with many tragedies, the devastating news rippled for miles. When teller Kathy Olson heard about Tyler, her son’s best friend, she rallied other Bell employees from the Wahpeton and Breckenridge branches, including VP/commercial banker Darci Eggen. Most of these employees either knew Tyler or his family or were familiar with the tragedy. They were eager to pool their Pay It Forward funds together for the cause.
Inviting Tyler’s parents into the bank, Kathy and Darci presented them with a check for $10,500. “Tim (Tyler’s dad) was very emotional, and tears were shed,” Kathy recalls. “We all told stories of Tyler and talked about how special he was to so many people. They were pleasantly shocked and so grateful for the donation to Tyler’s Walkway.”
Jill Wohlers, Tyler’s mother, expressed further appreciation in a Facebook post, saying “We would like to say thank you to Bell Bank and the employees for your generosity in your donation to Tyler’s Walkway! Your Pay It Forward program is so awesome. Words cannot express the appreciation that we feel. Having this walkway will hopefully prevent another tragedy from happening to someone else’s family.”
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.