Car club finishes restoration project for Rhinelander teen battling rare disease

Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 11:06 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WISC) - 17-year-old Gavin Schinke got the surprise of a lifetime Saturday afternoon, when the Northwoods Car Club presented him with a renovated car; but not just any car. His car.

Shortly after turning 16, the Rhinelander native bought the car, a 1986 Nissan 200sx, from his friend Tyler Garry.

“I knew it had a lot of work to do,” Schinke said. “But I wanted a project car.”

“It was a perfect first car for him,” Garry said.  “It was rough around the edges, but it had some heart.”

Schinke and Garry are both part of the Northwoods Car Club in Rhinelander. The 17-year-old Schinke grew up loving cars and going to races. He says long before purchasing the 200sx, he was teaching himself how to repair cars with video tutorials.

“The car community is a family,” he said.

After starting his restoration project, Schinke became sick.

“I noticed he had jaundice of the eyes, we took him in to see his nurse practitioner,” said his Mom Angela Fanning. “He wasn’t able to stay awake, he was passing out, so he got ambulanced down here from our hometown.”

Since August, Schinke has stayed at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

“What started with jaundice and hemolytic anemia was followed by multiple blood transfusions, his spleen being removed, a complicated surgical recovery, sepsis, failing live and kidneys and trouble breathing,” a hospital representative said. “Figuring out the cause of Gavin’s health issue has been an uphill battle with many setbacks.”

Shortly after Schinke was hospitalized, Garry and the rest of the Northwoods Car Club decided to pursue his restoration project for him.

“I think it took four or five days when he came down here,” Garry said. “I was like, we need to do something for him.”

Garry and the rest of the club have since added new wheels, a new body, a new paint job, shocks and struts, among other improvements.

On Saturday, they surprised Schinke with the car outside of the hospital.

“I didn’t even think it was my car,” Schinke said. “Honestly. I never knew how good it would look. It’s exactly how I wanted it.”

“I think this is going to put a little spring in his step,” Fanning said.

Friends and family have started a fundraising campaign to help Gavin and his family with hospital bills. You can find a link to that campaign here.

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