MINNEAPOLIS — A boy from Winona who saved his hometown a year ago as "Super-Gav" was surprised Wednesday by the Vikings in his room at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Vikings Youth Football Manager E.J. Henderson and Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Ting Ting and Kelley met Gavin Quimby to lift the spirits of the 5-year-old who has been hospitalized for nearly three months. Gavin is bravely battling Bronchial Obliterans Syndrome (BOS) in addition to his continued fight against Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), a rare but cruel genetic disorder that currently has no cure. Gavin was diagnosed with MLD in December 2013.
Henderson and the cheerleaders told Gavin how much he inspires them and signed a miniature football. Gavin also received a game ball that had been autographed by Teddy Bridgewater (who was out of town) and a special bag of Vikings items from team mascot Viktor.
"That's awesome for them to come see my son," Gavin's father Nick Quimby said. "It's amazing they were willing to do that. I'm just kind of speechless, but that's really cool for them to do that."
Minnesota State Sen. Jeremy Miller, who also visited Gavin Wednesday said the child is a "tough little guy."
"He's been through more medical procedures in the last couple of years than most of us will go through in a lifetime," Miller said. "He's got a lot of support in the community, and we're just so appreciative of the Minnesota Vikings for coming out today and showing their support to Super-Gav. Bringing E.J. Henderson and the cheerleaders out certainly helped lift his spirits."
Last year, Gavin accomplished acts of heroism around Winona, scoring a winning touchdown, apprehending a purse snatcher and helping put out a fire before receiving the key to the city.
"Gavin saved Winona, and we're looking forward to getting him out of the hospital and back in Winona," Miller said. "He's an inspiration for me personally and a lot of other people, just a strong little guy that keeps fighting. He's got a big support group and we're happy to do whatever we can to help him out here."
Miller represents Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties and sponsored the "Super Gav Act," a proposal to add six lysosomal storage disorders to the state's newborn screening program to improve treatment opportunities through early detection. Miller said Gavin is a "role model for all of us."
Miller worked on the legislation with the Hunter's Hope Foundation, an organization founded by Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife Jill in honor of their son.
According to its website, Hunter's Hope Foundation "was established to address the acute need for information and research with respect to Krabbe Disease and related Leukodystrophies. In addition, we strive to support and encourage those afflicted and their families as they struggle to endure, adjust and cope with the demands of these fatal illnesses."
Nick Quimby, a member of the Winona Police Department who served in Iraq while in the Marines has been alternating stays in the hospital with his wife Shanna, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army. The parents shift between staying with Gavin and taking care of his older sister.
"Things were pretty bleak there about a month ago, around Mother's Day with his lungs not being very healthy," Nick Quimby said. "It was complication from the original transplant last August. The cells in his lungs have been fighting against each other, his donor's cells against the original cells.
"It's great seeing him fight through that rough period there, and the doctors kind of worked some miracles and got him on a correct treatment," he continued. "The treatment is working, so hopefully we're going to get him home soon."
This August, Nick Quimby and several co-workers will be part of "Gavin's Gunz" in the Dancing with Winona Stars fundraiser for Gavin's medical bills. Click here for more information.
"All the money goes to Gavin's "Flying for a Cure" account, so myself and four other police officers down in Winona are going to be shaking it for a cause," Nick Quimby said.