The ‘Super-Hero Neighbor’ Who Saved a Little Boy After a Tragic Lawn Mower Accident

June 17, 2018

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

Jo Belkota has been very much looking forward to today, “I think it’s gonna be awesome. I know I’m gonna cry,” She told me in a telephone interview Saturday evening, “Everybody is just thrilled to have him home.”

That’s Jo on the right with her sister.

She’s talking about her neighbor, 10-year-old Gavin Burns; the young boy who was severely injured in a lawn mower accident. It’s been two weeks and Gavin has undergone six major surgeries, including amputation of his foot. Gavin and his family know it could have been much worse – if it wasn’t for Jo.

“I run the scene through my head at least 100 times a day. Everyday since it happened.” Jo says she recalls everything that happened on June 1st.

It was about 7 p.m. and she was pulling dinner out of the oven when she heard her neighbor yell for someone to call 911, “I saw Gavin and I told his mother to call 911. I said, “I need to take care of him” and I tore my shirt off and put it on his leg. I tied it and put pressure on his femoral artery. I didn’t let go. I just put pressure there.”

She held on tight and soon began to pray with Gavin, “I was trying to take his mind off and I just said, “Gavin can you say the Our Father with me?” and we started saying the Our Father.” They prayed together as they waited for help to arrive. A police officer arrived moments later, “I remember he grabbed a tourniquet and we put it around his leg. Then the paramedics came and I just remember thinking I couldn’t believe how calm they were. One asked the other, in the calmest voice, to get a stuffed animal out of the ambulance for Gavin. He was just so calm.”

And so was Jo, according to family members. She knew what to do – but how, “Believe it or not it was from Law and Order SVU. Remembering that episode actually helped me with what I was doing. It’s weird because everyone keeps asking me how I was so calm and I don’t remember being calm.”

They all loaded Gavin into the ambulance which drove to a nearby golf course where Mercy Flight was able to land and then take him to Oishei Children’s Hospital.

Jo thinks about Gavin pretty much non-stop. She’s been up to visit him in the hospital twice.

It’s very emotional for Jo to talk about, “Without the Lord I never would have been able to do it.” She said she did what she had to do and credits divine intervention and being in the right place at the right time,”I told his mom. I wasn’t gonna let him die. Not on my dime. I would have done whatever I could.”

The two have a bond now that simply can’t be broken. Jo is Gavin’s hero. She’s everyone’s hero, including Gavin’s mom, Jackie, “Without her I have no idea where he would be,” Jackie told me, “She’s truly an angel in the eye of Gavin along with us. We are truly blessed to have an amazing angel living next door. She truly has the biggest heart I have ever seen.”

Family members had these very special t-shirts made for Gavin and Jo to wear today. Gavin’s says, “Some people don’t believe in SUPER HEROES but they have never met MY NEIGHBOR.” and Jo’s says, “Superhero Neighbor.  #Gavinstrong.” The shirts mean the world to Jo, “I balled my eyes out what I saw that t-shirt. I don’t feel like a hero. It feels weird to hear people say things like that. Everybody in this family is calling me a superhero. Me. I’m just Jo-Jo. It’s something I am not used to. It’s very humbling. I hope I never have to do it again, but I would.”

I’d say she is the definition of a hero. And you can say it’s a pattern for this amazing woman, “This is the second time I’ve been in a situation like this. It happened on my mail route one time when I helped pull a man from a burning vehicle.”

It’s not shocking at all. This humble mail carrier does not want credit for anything. She said several times that she just did what she had to do and couldn’t have done it without God’s help.

Jo stopped talking at one point and began to cry for a moment. It is clearly and understandably an extremely emotional time, “I kept running thoughts in my head, did I do enough? What else could I have done.”  But Jo says after about ten days and after talking with a retired nurse, she began healing emotionally knowing she did all she could have. Which is an awful lot. Doctors were able to save Gavin’s life and his leg and there’s no doubt – no doubt at all – that is at least in part thanks to Jo.

She will likely continue to think about the accident but Jo is also very much ready to look ahead. Just like the Burns family. Beginning with a super homecoming for a couple of super heroes, “I painted a sign for his welcome home. I am going to tell him welcome home but I painted a 4 by 8 plywood sign too and it says welcome home.”



About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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    Thank you jojo…for being YOU!

  2. Avatar

    Good job. I’m crying again. I didn’t know about the plaque… thank you

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    You are an ANGEL!! We are all so thankful for you!
    Many hugs

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    Glory to God! I happen to know hundreds and hundreds of lawn mower accident survivors. In every one of there accidents God had surrounded them with exactly the right people, community, First Responders, and medical professionals to result in the best possible outcome. How glorious for God to shine his light into this incredible neighbor who has a heart of compassion for others! May mercy and grace follow her all the days of her life!

  5. Avatar

    Thank you John Brooks.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you Linda ♥️

  7. Avatar

    Mari, …I’m not about to change♥️?


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