'Nobody expects to get run down in a parade': Tyler Pudleiner, Waukesha parade survivor sits down with CBS 58
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The healing continues from the Waukesha parade attack. Six lives lost and over 60 hurt when an SUV barreled through the parade in November of 2021.
Tyler Pudleiner was walking with his high school band in the Waukesha Christmas Parade when he was hit. A year-and-a-half later, the now 18-year-old has endured 18 medical procedures.
CBS 58's Jessob Reisbeck sat down with Tyler, his mom, and his coach as Tyler's senior year of baseball gets underway.
"It's got red for Jane, blue for the Grannies, and green for Jackson. I designed it."
A baseball glove representing six lives lost, and the people that tried to save them.
"It's got the blue line stripe and the red line stripe for all the first responders that helped us that night, too," said Tyler.
November 21, 2021, Tyler was walking with his high school band in the Waukesha Christmas Parade when it was attacked by a man driving an SUV.
"Nobody expects to get run down in a parade like that," Tyler said.
Tyler's mom, Katti, and hundreds of others were forced to watch.
"They had just walked past me a block earlier down Main Street. I was getting ready to go home and then the SUV came flying down the road," said Katti.
The SUV didn't stop -- leaving chaos in its wake.
"As I got down closer to that cross street, everything went pitch black in my mind. That was my perspective, everything was black. There was very little light trying to find all these kids, find my kid," Katti said.
When Katti found her son, it wasn't pretty; his face was cut, swollen and battered.
"He was complaining his stomach hurt and he was starting to vomit," Katti said.
The inside of Tyler's body was even worse; he suffered severe damage to his right hip and tears in both his small and large intestines.
"Which caused him to be cut from stem to stern and dealing with all of your core muscles being cut afterwards. That's the hard part," said Katti.
"It's been a long battle this past year-and-a-half," Tyler said. "I'm getting there day by day, one day at a time. A lot people approach it as, how are the physical injuries doing? But at the same time it's just as big of a mental health battle as well. You gotta push through it and keep going."
Through almost 20 surgeries, all the physical and mental battles, Tyler has been at the forefront when it comes to the voices of the victims.
He was at the trial and spoke directly to the man that almost ended his life.
"As terrible as that incident was, I somewhat credit that guy for making me a better person," Tyler said.
In 2022, Tyler started a nonprofit called the "Bobbleheads Bring Us Together Project," with the goal of helping others through their tough times.
"From day one, I wanted to be able to support other people that were going through it. It's not just about yourself in these instances, you gotta help everybody else too," said Tyler.
Last month, the Bobbleheads Bring Us Together Project raised over $4,200 for the family of Peter Jerving, the Milwaukee Police Department officer killed in the line of duty in February.
The bobbleheads project is a new-found passion for Tyler, helping him push through the tough days to keep going. Meantime, baseball has always been there.
"He started playing in the driveway when he was two," Katti said.
Tyler joined his first team when he was four, and now he's in his senior year at Waukesha South High School -- less than a year-and-a-half after the parade attack.
"I know he's not 100% and I haven't heard him complain once about anything physical, mental, anything," said Jon Stillman, Waukesha South High School head baseball coach. "But for him to show the guys that, "I'm here and not complaining, that matters.'"
The glove that Tyler will use this year also matters -- a lot. It's a gift from the Jackson Sparks Foundation, the nonprofit started in honor of Jackson Sparks -- the 8-year-old who lost his life in the parade attack -- and designed by Tyler to honor all the victims, especially the six lives lost.
"Every time I go out there I'll know I got those six angels there with me," said Tyler. Jackson will never have the chance to get married and have kids. There's three grannies and a grandfather that will never get to hang out with their grandkids and tell stories. Five, you know, in that instance. It really puts it in perspective. I won't even say a day anymore, you can't take a second for granted."
After high school, Tyler has dreams of growing Bobbleheads Bring Us Together Project as big as possible.