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Josh Wimmergren was determined from a young age not to let his Duchenne muscular dystrophy stop him from trying new things.

He happily joined his family on outdoor adventures like fishing, camping and tubing. He earned honors with the Boy Scouts. And he developed a passion for adapted sports, earning a reputation as a fierce defensive player on PowerHockey wheelchair teams.

Wimmergren spent his final years trying to ensure that children with physical disabilities had those same chances to build confidence and to learn that they, too, could accomplish incredible goals.

"He really believed, just like I did, that these kids can do a lot of really great things, just like their peers," said Jonah Pridey, who coached adapted sports teams in the Osseo school district with Wimmergren.

Wimmergren, 42, died Jan. 12, likely from complications of his condition, according to his friend and family. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that causes muscles to weaken or atrophy. It can affect a wide range of muscles, including those supporting the legs, arms and heart. Wimmergren received his diagnosis when he was about 3 years old.

"As a little kid, he always wanted to be outside, even when things were hard for him because of the disability," said his mother, Eileen Wimmergren. So she and her husband, David, took him on active outdoor trips with the rest of their family.

Wimmergren loved cracking one-liners. "I called him the pot-stirrer of the family," his mother said. But he also made it clear he was there to support them if they ever needed encouragement.

He treated his teammates similarly. As a teenager, he played adapted soccer, hockey and softball and earned a reputation as a competitive player in all three sports.

"He wanted to win. He was hard on himself when it didn't go well on his position when he was a player," said Janell Leisen, who played with him on the Osseo teams in the 1990s and now works as an assistant principal at Maple Grove Senior High School.

After graduation, he joined the PowerHockey wheelchair league and played on traveling teams, including one that made it to championship games. Eventually, his passion translated into coaching.

"I believe he coached because he believed in the leadership capacity it builds in students, the competitive edge it brought out in players, and that it was fun," Leisen said.

Wimmergren and Pridey took over as head coaches for some of Osseo's adapted sports teams after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their teams were younger than most others in the league, and the students had less experience.

While coaches outside the league had typically gone easy on the children because of their disabilities — some used wheelchairs or walkers, while others have conditions that affect their gait — Wimmergren and Pridey were determined to push them. They told the kids: "We might not win games this year, but we're going to keep going."

Wimmergren's presence was a calm and steady one. "Whenever he spoke or was about to speak, kids would settle down and really tune in," Pridey said. "He definitely had a pretty big impact with the kids."

Wimmergren also helped the children navigate other milestones, like first crushes. He was hospitalized last fall but stayed in touch with Pridey, sending excited messages celebrating when the students began to win games.

"The kids are really working hard and figuring things out, and they want to do what they can to make themselves proud and their families proud," Pridey said. "But they also want to honor Josh and what we've taught them and what Josh has taught them."

Wimmergren is survived by his mother; his brother, Matthew Wimmergren; and his sister, Jessica Leonard, as well as her husband, Robert Leonard, and their son, Benjamin. Services have been held.