Gun violence temporarily took away his ability to talk, but now it’s driving him to speak out
Arthur Renowitzky has a strong will to be a better human being. This stems from one single moment during his spinal-cord injury rehabilitation. One day, following Renowitzky’s daily rehab session, a friend walked into his room and they had a chat about life. Then, the friend gave him a little black cause wristband that says, “Life Goes On.”
The words printed on that bracelet changed Renowitzky’s whole mentality on life. He vowed to get rid of his depression, get through rehab and change the world,ultimately leading him to found the Life Goes On Foundation (LGOF) in 2008.
Everything that led to this point started on Dec. 2, 2007, the day Renowitzky’s whole life changed.
Renowitzky and his then-girlfriend were going out to a San Francisco nightclub, to have some fun and enjoy the wonderful weather.
“I just remember it being a good day,” Renowitzky says. “I just know that we wanted to dance, so we went out and it felt good.”
But after the fun night, upon reaching his vehicle, an unidentified male approached him, pulled out a gun and demanded money. Before Renowitzky could react, the assailant shot him three times, piercing his lungs and damaging his spinal-cord, rendering him motionless on the street.
“The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I was trying to remember how to stay alive and catch my breath,” Renowitzky says. “I felt like a fish out of water.”
The assailant fled the scene never to be caught, getting away with just the $20 dollars in Renowitzky’s pocket.
Medics did an emergency tracheotomy to help Renowitzky breathe, which caused him long-term inability to talk. After a 23-day long medically induced coma, Renowitzky woke while surrounded by friends and family on Christmas Eve. When doctors arrived in the room, they told him the damage to his spinal cord was permanent. At first, his way of communicating was a note pad and pen. The reality of the situation sank Renowitzky into depression.
“Rehab was tough, but it trained me to get into a new lifestyle,” Renowitzky says. “I would have to do speech therapy once the breathing tube was out of my neck.”
Renowitzky, who had the tube in for months, also had to get used to life in a wheelchair. He admits that rehab was taxing, but there was one activity in rehab that got him through the process. He discovered wheelchair basketball.
“Wheelchair basketball changed my life,” Renowitzky says. “After my injury, it was probably one of the best things to ever happen to me. “
In 2009, after he started playing recreationally for a few years in rehab, Renowitzky joined his first team, the BOEP All Stars, a Bay Area wheelchair basketball team. After a few years of playing with them, in 2012, Renowitzky heard about playing for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association division I team, the Golden State Road Warriors on TV during a telecast of an NBA game. Renowitzky jumped at the chance to try out for the team.
Golden State Road Warriors’ head coach Paul Jackson says Renowitzky has come a long way from the days of his first tryout with the team.
“He came out to one of our practices and has been coming out for eight years and has worked so hard, and he made it up to the Division I level. That’s what it’s all about,” Jackson says.
Renowitzky also uses basketball to help the community, as he is the head coach at the local Boys and Girls Club chapter in San Leandro, Calif., for the Junior Warriors boys’ basketball team.
In the 12-plus years since the shooting, LGOF has sponsored the “Pushing for Change Tour”, Renowitzky has spoken to over 130 schools, making it his mission to talk to students of all ages about gun violence and gangs in California. His target zones are Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area communities.
His process is to tell his life story and relate to others. He throws in humor, and he covers topics like acceptance, overcoming obstacles and even dating with a disability.
One distinct message that he pushes is to fight for what you believe in.
“If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it,” Renowitzky says. “If you have a fight or true passion, keep pushing forward.”
LGOF has a message, too. LGOF’s overall mission is to end gun violence, empower those with spinal-cord injuries and uplift underserved youth. This is a message that Renowitzky hopes to soon spread all throughout the United States.
“We have spoken to over 100,000 kids in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Renowitzky says. “We have dreams of taking the program all around the country. That is one thing I want to tackle. There is still so much gun violence in the city of Oakland and in San Francisco and all over the Bay Area.”
Renowitzky is now an advocate for change in the community and has got the attention of several prominent figures in California and the world, including NBA players Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. In 2016, shortly after Durant’s arrival to the team, the two made him an honorary Golden State Warrior and befriended Renowitzky.
According to an LGOF promotional video on their website, early in his tenure with Golden State, Durant credits Renowitzky’s foundation with spreading the “Life Goes On” message, which eased Durant’s transition and emotional baggage that came with leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The hard work is being seen by the community. In 2009, LGOF and Renowitzky were awarded a citation of appreciation from the Oakland Mayoral Council Against Violence, led by former Oakland Mayor Ronald V. Dellums.
Being a wheelchair basketball player and an anti-gun violence advocate is hard work for Renowitzky.
“I just try to wake up and be the best person I can be to my ability,” he says. “I know that there may be some student who is looking up to me or for guidance. I just try to be the best role model that I can and lead a positive and healthy lifestyle is important to me.”
Renowitzky’s mission seems to have come full circle. In keeping with his message of positivity, he reminds people to be better individuals, while he hands out little black wristbands of his own to anyone who needs one. Each wristband is printed with the mantra, “Life Goes On.”
To learn more about Arthur Renowitzky and the Life Goes On Foundation, visit lgof.org.