Winsten involved with Wertz Warriors for more than 25 years

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STERLING — In the early 1980s, Winnie Winsten wanted to do something to help underprivileged children, and the Wertz Warriors provided just the vehicle for the Sterling resident to do that.

The Warriors, founded by former Detroit Tigers baseball player Vic Wertz, ride through Michigan each winter to raise money for the Michigan Special Olympics’ Winter Games. Winsten, who retired from the United States Air Force after 33 years, said he started with the Wertz Warriors in 1982, and has been involved ever since.

“We rode from Mount Clemens to Mackinac Island on snowmobiles,” Winsten said, adding that there were 102 total snowmobilers making that trip.

More recently, Winsten, who moved to Sterling from Mount Clemens about eight years ago, has been instrumental in the designing of a billboard on I-75 honoring the Wertz Warriors’ work, according to Standish resident Paul Senske.

“Winnie puts a lot of time and effort into Wertz Warriors,” Senske said. “If there’s any credit to be given out, it’s to Winnie.”

The billboard states, “Thank you Michigan for 30 years of caring.” Winsten said in order to view the billboard, take I-75 north, with the billboard located on the right-hand side, past exit 195.

Even though the Warriors ride throughout the state, Winsten said the riders have to wait until they reach someplace between Bay City and Flint in order to see any snow. He said the Warriors average about 200 miles per day during their annual trek through Michigan.

Winsten also said the Warriors typically raise about $300,000 per year for the Winter Games, with each community in the state doing their part to help.

“Everybody throws in a little bit,” he said.

The Warriors’ ride culminates with the opening of the Winter Games at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. Winsten said the Opening Ceremonies take place on Wednesday of the opening week of the games.

He said on that day, the Warriors take each Special Olympian on a three-mile ride on the snowmobiles, with the total amount of time taken equaling approximately four hours.

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