Eunjey Cho, 25, had traveled the world before he arrived in Spokane as a volunteer for Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in 2012. After serving here for a year, he set out on a fundraising bicycle journey across the country together with his friend and fellow Jesuit volunteer, John McGuin.
They named their journey “Spoke to Coaaaaaaaast!!” on the FirstGiving donation website and set a goal of raising $2,400 before reaching Cho’s hometown of Princeton, N.J.
Cho never made it home.
He was hit by a car Sept. 18 while riding his bike just outside Grand Junction, Colo., and died at a nearby hospital.
Scott Cooper, director of Parish Social Ministries at Catholic Charities of Spokane, was Cho’s boss for the year the young man worked as an emergency financial assistance coordinator at Catholic Charities.
“Eunjey was here through July,” said Cooper, who had just returned from Cho’s funeral in New Jersey. “It’s terrible. It’s a terrible loss of a young life.”
Before joining Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, Cho graduated from Santa Clara University and he also spent a year and a half teaching English in Thailand and Korea, the country from which his parents immigrated.
At Catholic Charities, Cho met with eight to 12 clients every day, trying to help them avoid eviction, pay utility bills and find funding for essential medication.
“We get some pretty tough cases here,” Cooper said. “We get many clients who’ve been rejected by all the other programs in town or who can’t qualify for government help.”
Cooper said Cho was compassionate and dedicated.
“I’m sure many of the clients Eunjey served will remember him well,” Scott said.
Jesuit volunteers receive a monthly stipend of $100 and are encouraged to not spend anymore on their personal expenses.
“They wanted to do this fundraising bike ride to raise enough money to pay for two other volunteers like themselves,” Cooper said. “They just wanted to raise $2,400 and doing the bike ride was also their way of getting home.”
Michael Cain, the outgoing president of the Spokane St. Vincent de Paul Society, said he got to know Cho through his support of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest.
“The young volunteers come here from all over the country; oftentimes they’ve never been here before,” Cain said. “My wife and I meet up with them and take them out for a beer as soon as they get here. We let them know we are there for them if they need us.”
Cain described Cho as very mature and wise beyond his years.
“He was exactly the kind of person that the world needs so desperately right now,” Cain said.
The driver who hit Cho fell asleep at the wheel and was charged with vehicular homicide.
“It’s tragedy upon tragedy,” Cain said. “The driver has two little kids and now she’s on her way to jail.”
Cho and McGuin’s fundraising ride raised $3,625.
“There was a surge of donations right after his death,” Cooper said. “The money will all go to Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest.”