Local father walks the distance to go around the world with son who has rare genetic disorder

Posted at 4:00 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 11:07:19-04

(WXYZ) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are making a point to get out of the house regularly for exercise. For many families, walks together around the neighborhood have become part of the daily routine.

That's exactly what the Gavin family is doing. Suzy and Jim, a local couple whose son, Jimmy, was born with a rare genetic disorder, walk every day during all four seasons.

A retired high school teacher and guidance counselor, Jim and Jimmy spend hours together on the move.

“Jimmy will not sit still. He’s constantly on the go. Therefore, Jimmy and I do a lot of walking outside in nature. Or at Twelve Oaks Mall when the weather becomes too cold outside," Jim said.

Jimmy was born with Angelman's Syndrome, which is the deletion of the 15th chromosome, which mean she does not speak, can't feed himself or dress himself.

Each day, Jim walks – pushing Jimmy in his specially-made cart – around Walled Lake and other favorite pathways in the area.

“Typically we walk in the morning about 8 miles. He comes home from his program, we walk another 8 miles. (2:30) And then sometimes after dinner, we’ll go for a short walk, 2 or 3 miles," he said.

On the first day of July in 2016, Jim started wearing a FitBit he got as a retirement gift. It measures their miles – and milestones they reach around the way.

“After two years, I received a badge that said I’d walked – Jimmy and I – had walked from the North Pole to the South Pole – 12,450 miles," he said.

That’s when their daily journey became a challenge, to go the distance. At the end of April, a couple months shy of four years of walking, they accomplished something that’s unthinkable for most of us, covering the distance around the world.

“It’s just one of those things as those badges came in, and after that halfway around the world came, I said Jimmy we can do this," Jim said.

Jim and Suzy consider caring for their son their calling. Their rock-solid faith has helped them stay on track through the years. Their love for Jimmy and their commitment to his well-being is the daily embodiment of their faith.

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