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Remembering Super-Gav, Winona's superhero

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Gavin Quimby runs around in puddles in between filming scenes for his video in June 2014 at the Central Fire Station in Winona.


He was Winona’s best-loved superhero, and also the city’s cutest.

When he wasn’t saving the city from football losses, fires, and thugs, he was Gavin Quimby, a rambunctious little kid with an even greater mission: to fight and bring awareness to a rare and fatal genetic disorder.

In December 2013, when he was 3 years old, Gavin was diagnosed with metachromatic leukodystrophy, a neurological disorder that causes the brain and nervous system to progressively lose function.

Gavin passed away early Tuesday morning, but together with his parents, Nick and Shanna, and older sister Ali, along with the entire community rooting for him, the 5-year-old didn’t give up the fight easily.

Super-Gav rose to fame and prominence last June, when his family and friends orchestrated a day of heroism for him.

First, he helped the Winona Senior High School football team score the winning touchdown after a star running back got injured. Then he and the Winona Fire Department put out a fire at an elementary school. After that, he saved a damsel in distress when her purse was stolen, turning the unlucky thief over to the police.

Meanwhile, hundreds of friends and supporters gathered to cheer him on, chanting “We want Gavin! We want Gavin!”

At the end of the day the crew stopped at City Hall, where Mayor Mark Peterson gave Gavin a golden key to the city and declared the day Super-Gav Day – “a day to be inspired by the courage, determination and strength that our very own superhero, Super-Gav, demonstrated today.”

“No matter what, the city will always remember and cheer for you and your family,” Peterson said. “On behalf of the city of Winona, thank you for being such a superhero.”

After Gavin saved Winona, it was Winona’s turn. Friends of the family recorded all his heroic acts and turned them into a film to be shown at a benefit for Gavin’s medical treatments.

Gavin received chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at the University of Minnesota in August 2014, in attempt to slow the progression of the disease, and was in and out of the hospital for several months as his body struggled to heal.

He and his family took their story to the Minnesota Legislature in February, where Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, introduced The Super Gav Act to add metachromatic leukodystrophy and similar disorders to the list of conditions newborn babies are screened for.

His parents’ hope is for other families to have the benefit of early detection, which gives kids more options and a better chance of survival.

“It’s so much easier when you find out that your baby has it right when they are born,” Shanna said in February.

Gavin returned home from the Twin Cities in December 2014, and got to spend the holidays with his family. Over the next nine months, he had frequent checkups and took medication to help his body accept the transplant cells.

But Gavin’s disease was worsening, and two weeks ago his parents made the difficult decision to stop treatment and make Gavin as happy and comfortable as they could.

And they did just that. Gavin’s last days were filled with lots of snuggling and hugs. Make a Wish Foundation threw him a Minions party, and his family celebrated the wonderful son and brother he was.

Visitation for Gavin will be held Friday from 3-8 p.m. at Hoff Celebration of Life Center in Winona. Services are 11 a.m. Saturday at Central Lutheran Church, Winona, with visitation one hour prior.

Super-Gav will be missed, but the city of Winona, inspired by his bravery, tenacity, and joy, will not forget its little superhero.


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