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Published January 27 2011

Clark: Now is the time for region to rally around Perham's Gabbard

Driving back from last week’s Perham game where Zach Gabbard collapsed brought up a lot of thoughts.

It made me wonder how this could happen to such a young kid. Or what it was like to witness something like that.

Then it made me think about a young man I knew named Reggie Garrett. He was a kid I covered for two years when I was a high school football writer in Texas.

He died last September after collapsing during a game.

A buddy of mine, who took over my beat, called me to tell me what happened when I was driving back from Perham – of all places – after covering a football game.

Here’s what all of us learned from Reggie’s experience that could maybe help us with Zach’s.

We know life isn’t promised tomorrow and it really hits home when the person suffering is much younger than many of us.

It makes you think about their parents. Zach’s parents are in Minneapolis probably praying for an answer. They are probably trying to figure out why this happened while asking for their son to be as healthy as possible.

Reggie’s death provoked those same questions, but it did something else. It made that community back in Texas stronger.

Reggie wore No. 12 and his high school, West Orange-Stark, got a movement going by putting “112%” stickers on its helmets.

Every school in the area wanted to wear it too. That makes me pose this question: Can the same thing be done here?

Perham wore headbands during a Tuesday night game to let everyone know Zach was on their minds.

Maybe other teams need to do that too. It doesn’t matter if it is on the Minnesota side or North Dakota, this affects all of us.

We’re not far from flood season, and in the five months I’ve been here I’ve heard all these amazing stories about this community’s spirit when the flood waters are near.

This area continues to impress me, and that’s why this can be done. Because when you think about it, this isn’t much to ask for.

But in terms of impact, however, it does a lot.

That makes me think about Reggie. He never got a chance to see his community rally around him. Zach does have that chance.

Whether it is through headbands, banners or a patch on a jersey, people need to show support.

The people at Perham have said they’ve received quite a bit of support already. So what’s a little bit more?

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548 or at rclark@forumcomm.com