Although I was born in Fargo, ND, my parents moved to Perham, MN, when I was less than six months old. I graduated from school in Perham after participating in football, basketball and baseball. Even though I haven't technically lived full time in Perham for over 15 years, when asked where I'm from or where 'home' is, I quickly respond, "Perham."
Generally people will say, "Oh." That means they have no idea where it is.
So, I will say, "Do you know where Detroit Lakes is?"
Some answer yes, saying they've been to WE FEST.
If they don't say yes, I’ll say, "Well, it's about an hour east of Fargo."
That generally at least gives them an idea of where the town of just under 2,500 is located. The Lakes Area is really busy during the summer months, to be sure.
Last Thursday, while I was trying to stay warm inside, writing a blog here about the weather conditions in Warroad, the Perham high school boys basketball team was playing in Dilworth. The Yellowjackets went into the game with a record of 11-0 and ranked fourth in the state in AA. It wasn't long before none of that seemed too important.
Zach Gabbard, a 17-year-old starter who had led the team in scoring three of the past four games, was running down the court. Suddenly, he had a heart attack and collapsed to the floor. A Perham doctor who had made the trip came onto the court and performed CPR until paramedics got there. Players were sent to the locker rooms and fans were cleared from the gym.
He was taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo where he had to go through heart surgery. He remained in critical condition, but on Sunday, he was able to be flown down to the University of Minnesota hospital where he is showing more signs of responsiveness.
I don't know Zach Gabbard. He was born the same year that I graduated from high school. This is a story that you read in the newspaper. It's something that happened to Hank Gathers from Loyola Marymount in the late '80s. It isn't supposed to happen so close to home.
The Perham community has come together. High school basketball teams across the state and further have expressed their concern and best wishes. His CaringBridge site has already been viewed nearly 69,000 times, and many have left messages. There have been community gatherings for thoughts and prayers for Zach and his family. His family has been updating the journal, and they continue to thank all the supporters for the well wishes and prayers.
As you can imagine, the medical costs will be very high for the family. A fund has been set up at United Community Bank in Perham to help his family defray medical costs. Donations can be made at any UCB location (Perham, Frazee and Dean's Country Foods in Perham) in the name of the Zach Gabbard Fund. Others can feel free to send money to United Community Bank at 155 Second Street SW, Perham, MN 56573.
Also, t-shirts have been designed to help show support for Zach and his family. One Clap for Zach (www.OneClapForZach.com) was set up by Perham's 9th grade coach and assistant varsity coach Brent Hanson who has coached Zach for a long time in various youth programs. The proceeds from the t-shirt will also go to the Zach Gabbard Fund.
If there is anyone that can understand what Zach and his family are going through, it is Brent Hanson (of BrentNet) and his parents. When he was in high school, he was playing basketball one day, and he blacked out. It was a heart attack. He has a defibrillator in his chest to remind him of that day and how precious life is. Ironically, when Hanson was coaching Zach in 6th grade, five years ago, Hanson had his second cardiac arrest.
As if it matters, the Perham boys basketball returned to the court on Tuesday night and played their first game since the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton game had been postponed. The team made the long trek to Barrett, where they took on West Central Area. For what it is worth, they improved to 12-0 with a 63-13 win.
According to the post-game article by John George of LakesAreaSports.com, it was an emotional night for the players.
“Running out for warm-ups gave me the chills,” Jordan Cresap said. “The support from both teams was unbelievable. It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. We knew Zach was right there with us, and we played our hearts out in his honor.”
The emotions were running high, in the locker room, on the court, and in the stands.
“It took a little while,” Jordan Bruhn said of getting his emotions under control. “The crowd really appreciated us. It was the most Perham people I’ve seen on the road. It was great.”
Mark Schumacher carried Gabbard’s jersey with him during the pre-game announcements, and the team kept the No. 3 jersey with them on the bench through the game.
“We felt him there,” Schumacher said. “Coach (Dave) Cresap said in the locker room, ‘Like the Marines, we don’t leave a man behind. We’re going to put Zach on our backs and carry him the rest of the year.’ We truly did that tonight. Everyone in that gym felt him there with us.”
“We talked to Steve, his dad, and his breathing went up during the game,” Bruhn said. “He (Zach) knew we were out there for him. And we knew he was with us.”
This is one of those stories that you hope never happens, but it does. Zach Gabbard is doing his part. He is fighting. His family is doing what they can. They are with their son. There are a lot of people wishing them all well and praying for them.
To read updates on Zach, click here. To leave comments for Zach, click here. Please also visit the One Clap for Zach site where you can donate directly, or purchase a t-shirt with proceeds all going to the Zach Gabbard Fund.
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