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The Enderlin Eagles boys basketball team bought T-shirts to support Perham's Zach Gabbard. Back row from left: Austin Dixon, Dylan Claus, Matt Luther, Josh Michaelson, Coltin Huus, Taran Langland, Dalton Bartholomay Front row: Jared Kittelson, Quentin Gibson, Aaron Hall, Gareth Hanson, Tanner Groth, Tanner Henderson.

Gabbard's story inspires both on and off the court

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It's difficult to go anywhere in Perham without seeing a One Clap for Zach T-shirt.

It's also becoming more difficult to go anywhere in the state and beyond without seeing a few.

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Perham's Zach Gabbard collapsed on the basketball court during a game in Glyndon on Jan. 20.

He had open heart surgery and is receiving specialized care at Fairview Hospital at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. While he remains on dialysis, he is awake and has started occupational therapy, according to his CaringBridge website.

Beginning to heal and touching lives

It's no secret that the Perham junior has major support and his fan base seems to be getting stronger, just as his body is in Minneapolis.

Basketball teams and fans across the region and beyond are raising money and wearing Clap for Zach T-shirts.

Cindy Hanson, whose son is a junior basketball player in the small North Dakota town of Enderlin, saw Gabbard's story on the news and had the idea of the basketball team buying One Clap shirts. Her son Gareth went a step further and suggested warming up in them for the rest of the season.

"I talked to the team and everybody was in favor of it," she said. "There was no hesitation."

The Enderlin Eagles wore the shirts for their last three games, even beating a rival team in overtime in a district tournament team.

"We call [the shirts] our good luck charm," Hanson said.

She also praised the Perham school district for getting the shirts to the team quickly.

"We had them the next day," Hanson said.

While she has never met Gabbard, Hanson said his story touched her in more ways than one.

"He's the same age as my kid and I thought about what would I do or how would I feel if I was in this situation," she said. "But to know that if something like this happened to my son, people would do the same... that's the cool part. I think he's touched a lot of people and made them think."

More teams play for Gabbard

Enderlin isn't the only team to help raise awareness and funds for Gabbard.

The Hancock, Minn. boys and girls basketball teams raised money for the Gabbard family during halftime of games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. T-shirts had been purchased for all varsity players to wear in honor of Zach.

In Morris, college basketball fans donated $700 to Gabbard when Minnesota-Morris mens and womens teams hosted St. Scholastica. Perham Head Coach Dave Cresap's daughter attends Minnesota-Morris.

Many other teams are doing the same, including teams close by such as New York Mills and Pelican Rapids.

Hundreds came to the Pelican Rapids High School gym to support Gabbard at a recent game.

"I have not seen (support) happen to this degree in my lifetime," Vincent Pankonin, father of Perham junior guard Gabe Pankonin, told the Pelican Rapids Press. "It says a lot for this region of our state."

Fans wore Gabbard T-shirts and donated money to help pay for medical expenses, as the team continued its season, now dedicated to Gabbard.

More ways to help

A fund is set up at United Community Bank in Perham to help Gabbard's family pay for medical expenses. Donations can be made at any UCB location for "The Zach Gabbard Fund," or can be sent to United Community Bank at 155 Second St. SW, Perham MN 56573.

To order a One Clap for Zach T-shirt, visit www.oneclapforzach.com and choose from two options. To make a cash donation, click on the donate link on the site. The second option is to buy a One Clap for Zach T-shirt for $20.

A benefit will be held for Gabbard on Feb. 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mulligans Pub and Eatery in Perham. A spaghetti feed, silent auction and gun raffle will be held. For more information, call Pat Nordick at 218-850-9961.

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