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Taking steps toward normalcy: Gabbard gets closer to an average teenager's life following collapse

Zach Gabbard attended two of Perham's games at the Minnesota state basketball tournament in March. Forum file photo

PERHAM, Minn. - With the most significant change of his life ready for the silver screen, teammates say Perham guard Zach Gabbard is living the life of a local celebrity.

It was nearly six months ago when Gabbard, 17, collapsed during a game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton from cardiac arrest.

His story captured the region and eventually the entire state. Today, his story will be part of a movie titled, "For Three" chronicling the Perham boys basketball team's season.

"He's constantly with us, and one time he was at one of my track meets and people from other towns knew who he was," said teammate Mike Wiskow, who will be a senior next season. "People would come up to him and shake his hand, tell him he's an inspiration and walk away. We'd ask him if he knew those people and he said, 'No.'"

Attempts to reach Gabbard and his family by The Forum were not successful.

Upon returning home from a Twin Cities hospital, Gabbard started becoming a familiar face around Perham - again.

He's been seen at Perham baseball games hanging out near the dugout with basketball teammates such as Jordan Bruhn and Jordan Cresap, whose father, Dave, is the team's head coach.

Often described as a friendly, easygoing guy, Gabbard's appeal has struck a chord with many in the area, said teammate Mark Schumacher.

"He hangs out with different people every day," Schumacher said. "He talks with a lot of people and people want to hang out with him. I haven't seen him in five or six days because he's been so busy with other people."

Anyone that's had a chance to talk with Gabbard can still hear the effect the cardiac arrest had on him.

He speaks softly, yet his voice carries a heavy somewhat raspy tone.

The last time Gabbard got a lot of exposure came in Minneapolis, when he was wheeled out to center court of the Target Center before a state tournament game.

At that time, he was able to walk, but it was limited.

Now, he's able to walk around without any problems.

"Over the Fourth, we were at Detroit Lakes every day," Bruhn said. "We were even going to dances in Fargo."

Going to dances and seeing friends is just part of any average teenage life, a sign that things are becoming normal for Gabbard.

But there are still distinct characteristics that prove he isn't back to being the same teenager that he was prior to the accident.

An example would be those trips to Fargo. Bruhn said driving through Glyndon, where Gabbard's collapse, occurred can be a challenge at times.

"When he goes through D-G-F, he's fine with it, and sometimes, he's not," Bruhn said. "It brings up memories of that night and that it happened."

The incident itself has been talked about by Gabbard and his teammates.

Bruhn said he and Gabbard talked about the night of his collapse only once. Gabbard asked Bruhn and a few teammates what happened.

So they showed him the TV news clips of what happened.

Those same clips will be in the movie, which debuts tonight in Perham.

"His emotions change from day to day," Bruhn said. "Some days he's looking forward to it and some days he's not, because of the D-G-F part. That's going to be the toughest part of the movie."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark's Force blog can be found at