Dancing Gabe has been a fixture at pro sports games in Winnipeg for more than 30 years, and now an author is setting out to tell his story.
Born Gabriel Langois in 1963, the local legend is known for cheering and grooving in the stands at Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Goldeyes games.
But Daniel Perron, author of Dancing Gabe; One step at a Time, says for as long as he's been in the spotlight, many Winnipeggers still don't know much about the man behind the jersey.
"Not only Gabe's life story but all of our life stories are like an iceberg ... what people know of us is what sticks above the water line," says Perron. "When we talked about what had happened to Gabe when he was three, or six, people did not know."
Not only is he an avid sports fan, Perron says Gabe is also an athlete in his own right.
"He has run, for example, 29 marathons — four full marathons and 25 half marathons. He also bowls twice a week and never misses."
Gabe also took part in and won the Dancing with Celebrities fundraiser for Manitobans with disabilities in 2010, Perron says.
During the course of writing the book, Perron got to know Gabe, his family and even doctors, teachers and athletes who developed relationships with him during his rise in popularity.
Perron says the book delves into details about Gabe's childhood, his struggle with autism and his day-to-day to life.
"It adds more dimensions to Gabe and what people will know of him, how they look at him," says Perron.
'His story really is a story of community.' - Daniel Perron
Gabe was diagnosed with autism when he was three, Perron says, adding he was institutionalized three years later at the age of six and remained non-verbal until he was 10.
Perron, who says he was prompted to write the book in part because "it was the right thing to do," hopes it inspires people to be proud of who they are – especially those living with disabilities.
"His story really is a story of community. It's a story of hundreds of people who help him along the way, never knowing ... that he would become Dancing Gabe," Perron says
"Everybody who helped him along the way and touched his life did it because it was just the right thing to do."
The book launches next Saturday, Sept. 5 at a Goldeyes' game. For every printed book sold, Perron is donating $1 each to the True North Foundation, the Goldeyes' Field of Dreams Foundation and the Bombers' anti-bullying community initiatives program.