Castro Valley Man Walks The Length Of California So That Friend May Take His First Steps In Years

Consider Eugene Yoon one of the few fans out there of the selfie stick.

It comes in handy, Eugene says, when you are in the middle of nowhere and you can't find anyone to take your picture.

"I'm surprised how valuable it's been," the 28-year-old from Castro Valley says.

Eugene, you see, has been in the middle of nowhere a lot these past three months. He's been hiking the 2,650-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail running from Mexico to Canada.

Eugene is taking all those steps so that his friend, Arthur Renowitzky can take his first steps in years.

"The best philanthropy comes from the ones that you can affect, the people that are directly around you," Eugene said during a recent stop along the trail in Yosemite National Park's Tuolomne Meadows.

Eugene is hoping to raise $80,000 through his hike so that Arthur, a San Leandro activist for spinal cord injury patients who is paralyzed himself, can afford an "exoskeleton," new technology that can support the weight of a paraplegic and allow him to walk.

“Arthur will have this device that will change the entire course of, you know, his life. He’ll be able to stand up and be out of his wheelchair and achieve this dream that he’s been fighting for for seven years.”

Eugene’s passion for social causes started early. Having made a short documentary in high school about student bigotry, he went on to attend and graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. But after landing a “dream job” right after graduation, something didn’t feel right.

“I recognized early that I was gonna get caught in this nine to five treadmill and that it was gonna be hard to get off.”

So Eugene got out his bucket list and began to travel the world. For a year and a half, he experienced other lifestyles and lived out his definition of education, which is “to experience a life outside your own.”

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30 countries later, Eugene was ready for something that would do more than just fulfill himself. He wanted to do something that would help others.

He cites one of his inspirations as none other than TV personality Ellen DeGeneres. After watching clips of her on the Internet, the five simple words that stuck with him were the ones that DeGeneres is known for saying in the closing of each show.

“Be kind to one another.”

Around the same time, he become aware of the Pacific Crest Trail, one of three U.S. long distance hiking trails that makes up the “Triple Crown of Hiking.”

“When I found out that there was this trail in my backyard, that idea didn’t leave me.”

Then shortly after that, Arthur came into the picture. Strangers at first, Eugene initially learned about Arthur and his story on social media. After seeing his posts and doing a little research on him, Eugene was inspired by Arthur’s story and positivity. “I wanted to emulate that and I said, ‘I want to do an act in the community like Arthur would do.’”

Combining his desire to help someone else with his curiosity of the Pacific Crest Trail, Eugene told Arthur about his idea to help him reach his fundraising goal for the exoskeleton.

“What kind of person does something like this for a complete stranger?” Arthur marvels.

Since their first meeting, the two have grown to be close friends. Eugene says that Arthur’s inspirational aura on social media translates in person and he calls him “inspirational, strong, motivating.”

Now roughly halfway through the trail, Eugene is hopeful that the donations will continue to come in for Arthur.

With tears in his eyes, Eugene could hardly put into words how he is going to feel when his friend will stand on his own two feet and walk on his own.

“There's no word to describe this feeling that I get, this feeling of knowing that at the end of this process someone as amazing and incredible as Arthur would be able to walk again.”

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