Taking a Spin at the Wheel: Killdeer resident, grandmother compete on Wheel of Fortune

Sam Kershisnik and her grandmother, Freddie Walker, on stage during the taping of their Wheel of Fortune episode, which aired Nov. 16.

Many grandchildren are fortunate to spend time with their grandparents. But very little can say they were on a nationally viewed game show at Walt Disney World.

By Zak Wellerman
Sam Kershisnik, of Killdeer, got the opportunity to be on Wheel of Fortune with her grandmother, Freddie Walker, after Walker sent off an audition tape a year ago. The taped episode aired Nov. 16.
Her grandmother has been a committed fan of Wheel of Fortune for a long time, Kershisnik said.
“My grandma has been taping Wheel of Fortune every single night for 30 years. So she’s a big fan,” Kershisnik said.
When Wheel of Fortune called for Walker, they wanted to do a grandparents week for the show. So, Walker called her granddaughter and they auditioned together.
“So she called me and we meet up in Kansas City and auditioned there and then they told us in two weeks we would know yes or no whether or not if we made it to the live show. And we did, and two weeks after that we had to fly to Florida to do the show. It was kind of just boom, boom, boom,” Kershisnik said.
Kershisnik said she and Walker were very excited to be on the show, but there were some nervous moments throughout the process of rehearsals to live shows.
“Whenever we did our rehearsal, we were pretty nervous and everybody did pretty bad. When we actually did the live show, it seemed like everyone was nice and calm and had a good time. It was pretty good; won some money and made it through the show without my grandma forgetting who she was,” Kershisnik said. “She was really nervous and forgot to talk at a couple of points and didn’t she was going to be. When it came time to do the live show, you could tell she was kind of scared and the bright lights were on her because we did rehearsals during the day and the live show at night so the lights were a lot brighter.”
In addition to spending time with each other, Kershisnik and Walker won $8,900 together. But according to Kershisnik, they were close to winning much more if the wheel had not gone against them.
“We could have won three times more than that if we didn’t land on that stupid bankruptcy wedge at beginning of the next to the last puzzle,” Kershisnik said.
In the end, Kershisnik feels her grandma had a great time and did very well at the puzzles.
“I guess she was super excited to meet Pat and Vanna. So she was kind of shaking in her boots a little bit. She solved a lot of the puzzles. She seemed to be really sharp when it came time to play the game.,” Kershisnik said. “The part where she had to talk was kind of nerve-wracking for her.”
Kershisnik and several family members were able to have a family vacation at Walt Disney World. The contestants each received four all-park passes and free hotel accommodations at a Disney resort. They also got six other passes to bring along family and friends. Kershisnik’s husband, son, grandpa, her mom, mom’s sister and her husband, three cousins and her cousin’s little baby joined her.
“It was really fun and I had visited Disney World a few times before for different things. But that was the first time I’ve ever gotten to go with my grandparents and all my other family. Disney’s huge so there’s like a million different things to do. My son loved all the little characters and stuff,” Kershisnik said. “It was really fun for him, but it was so freaking hot. I think the North has made me soft because I grew up in Missouri where it’s really hot and humid.
Some of her favorite moments were watching the grandparents move across the stage on little scooters and meeting new people from Wheel of Fortune.
“It was like a parade of grandparents. And the people we meet because we meet all the contestants too like we spent a couple of moments in a room and we became friends because one of the people I meet we’re going to meet when I go to Kansas City next,” Kershisnik said. “We meet a bunch of different people from around the United States from different backgrounds. We kind of made some new friends so that was cool. And my son got to meet Goofy. That was a win.”

Sam Kershisnik’s son, Jack, meets Pluto the Dog during the family’s stay at Walt Disney World.

Kershisnik added the town has been very excited to see Kershisnik and her grandmother on Wheel of Fortune, but she had to keep the details secret to keep their winnings.
“I think I got more likes when I posted on Facebook about that than when my son was born. So people were pretty excited,” Kershisnik said. “And then it’s been really hard to keep my mouth shut I’ll tell you that much. I want that money so.”
She also got a behind the scene view as a contestant that viewers normally wouldn’t see.
“The wheel is a lot heavier than it looks. You think it’s just a little piece of cardboard, but it is super heavy like my shoulder was hurting the next day and I’m not a delicate woman,” Kershisnik said. “Vanna and Pat are just as nice as you think they are. They were really nice and they made us not feel so nervous I think.”
As for plans to spend the money, Kershisnik isn’t sure what she’ll what to do with it yet.
“We just built this huge addition to our house. We built this garage and it sucked a lot of our savings. So I think we’re probably just going to save it, in case something happens with a vehicle or whatever. Just going to throw it into savings. I was going to get a hot tub with it then our garage cost twice as much as it supposed to,” Kershisnik said. “But it did pay for all of my travel expenses to and up there and try out and we had to pay for own airfare to go to Florida so it kind of paid for a couple of vacations already.

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