Green Lake’s Joel Schultz wanted to be a loyal grandparent. He never missed a basketball game his grandson Ben Wettstein played in. One night, before one of Wettstein’s 6th grade basketball games, Schultz had an idea.
“We have an old camera and I thought well, why not take it and shoot some footage of him playing?” Schultz said.
Schultz recorded the 6th grade game, then the 7th and 8th grade games later that night. At the end of the latter contests, he captured a game winning shot by the opposing school. The opposing player’s parents missed the game to attend an older son’s high school game. Schultz dubbed a copy of the shot and sent it to the player’s family. Within a couple days, Schultz received an email thanking him for capturing the moment.
“Just catching that shot, just really kind of made me think,” Schultz said, “Why not keep doing this?”
His idea was a slam dunk. Schultz became the unofficial videographer for all of his grandson’s basketball games. From dazzling defensive plays to game-winning buzzer beaters, Schultz captured all of his grandson’s best basketball moments. Meanwhile, life was hitting Schultz with a full court press.
For almost two decades, Schultz dealt with coronary artery disease. In 2011, it was determined he’d need heart bypass surgery. After an 11 and a half hour procedure, his arms began to swell.
“In post-operative care something went wrong,” Schultz said, “There was a loss of blood flow to my forearm muscles, and they all died.”
It cost Schultz his hands. He no longer had any strength or function in either hand.
“I could not take a piece of toilet paper and rip it on the perforation. That’s how little strength I had,” Schultz said.
Schultz says all he thought about was his grandson.
“I’ve got three months until basketball. How am I going to videotape the basketball games without my hands?” Schultz recalled.
Schultz eventually had his right hand amputated and replaced with a prosthetic hook. In all, Schultz endured more than 50 medical procedures and two major bypass surgeries due to coronary artery disease. He says his faith kept him from becoming discouraged.
“I think about it but I’m not going to let it change me,” Schultz said, “I still have a lot of life to live here.”
Schultz built a camera rig with a monopod attached to a strap around his waist. He used a pencil in his left hand to press the camera buttons while his prosthetic hook braced the camera. He didn’t miss a single game.
When Wettstein began playing basketball at Laconia High School in Rosendale, Schultz took his videographer duties a step further. He now shoots almost every Laconia varsity, junior varsity and freshman basketball contest. The morning after, he makes DVD copies of the game for the entire team, including the coaches. He then makes DVDs for fans who are unable to attend the games due to health reasons, or any other circumstance. Schultz has helped hundreds relive their favorite basketball memories.
“It’s fun because I don’t know these people,” Schultz said, “They’re strangers, and it’s nice to – I guess pay it forward.”
Schultz estimates he’s given out more than 3,000 discs. Today, the upstairs office in his home is filled with dozens of thank you cards from grateful families. For that reason, Schultz plans to continue as Laconia’s unofficial videographer even after Wettstein’s graduation.
“They’re a good bunch of guys,” Schultz said, “I want to show them that people care about them, and what they’re doing is worthwhile.”
Still, it’s no secret who his favorite player is.
“It’s funny because in Rosendale and Brandon, I’d say most people don’t know my name but they all know Ben’s grandpa, and I like it that way,” Schultz said.