Eugene Yoon spent 174 days hiking from Mexico to Canada to raise money to help another man take his first steps in eight years.
On October 14, the 28-year-old from Castro Valley, California, completed the Pacific Crest Trail – covering more than 2,650 miles and raising tens of thousands of dollars to help Arthur Renowitzky, who is paralyzed, purchase technology that will enable him to walk on his own.
Renowitzky, 28, was paralyzed after being shot in the chest by a mugger in San Francisco in 2007, NBC Bay Area reports. After spending 23 days in a medically induced coma, the then 20-year-old woke up to the news that he would never walk again.
Yoon learned of Renowitzky’s story through social media postings about the Life Goes on Foundation, a nonprofit Renowitzky founded to end youth violence, support newly paralyzed patients and raise awareness about spinal cord injuries.
He also learned that Renowitzky had been trying to raise the $80,000 needed to purchase and train with a motorized exoskeleton that would allow him to walk again.
“[He’s] just an incredibly inspirational person,” Yoon told NBC Bay Area.
He was so moved by the man’s story that he decided to help and contacted him via Facebook.
“I reached out to him blindly and told him, ‘I’d like for you to achieve your dream of walking again,’ ” Yoon explained to KABC.
The two men have since become close friends, but Renowitzky is still at a loss when it comes to Yoon’s generous spirit.[facebook url="https://www.facebook.com/eugene.yoon.71/videos/10103512732248244/" /]
What kind of person does something like this for a complete stranger? he asked NBC Bay Area.
Yoon set off on his journey in April with the goal of raising the $80,000 on GoFundMe. On October 14, he reached the Canadian border, but that wasn’t the highlight of his trip.
The highlight, he told NBC, happened two weeks earlier when he learned that the fundraising goal had been met and Renowitzky had purchased his exoskeleton.
“I can remember that moment like it was yesterday,” he said.
Upon his return to the Bay Area, Yoon joined Renowitzky in San Leandro, California, to walk the halls of Fairmont Hospital.
“I wouldn’t be here without you,” Renowitzky told Yoon. “You know that, don’t you?”