On Tuesday, Woodland Rotarians, with many of their children and grandchildren, listened raptly as 24-year-old quadriplegic Anthony ‘Tony’ Venditti told of how his life drastically changed two days after his 21st birthday.
That was the day that Venditti, a graduate of River City High School in West Sacramento, popular student, school leader and a community volunteer, went with a group of friends on a trip in a sports utility vehicle to San Francisco. He was attending Sacramento City College and participating in theater productions, which were his passions.
Venditti told the Rotarians and their young guests that he gave up his seat with a seatbelt to one of his best friends and then, after climbing into the cargo compartment, he and his friends found themselves hurdling down Interstate 80 at an ever increasing rate of speed. When the driver lost control of the vehicle it rolled several times, throwing him out. He landed on his head on the freeway. In that instant, Venditti went from a smiling, outgoing all-American boy to an accident victim who would remain in a coma for months and then come home, barely able to recognize his surroundings and knowing that for the rest of his life he would not be able to run, swim, walk or even raise and use his hands.
“It only takes a moment without a seatbelt to find yourself without the life you had planned and taken for granted,” Venditti told the Rotarians. His mother said that the first months at home were extremely stressful for both Tony and his family, but he, and they, persevered and his attitude now is one of hope and a mission to take the message of seatbelt usage to everyone he can reach.
Since his accident, Venditti has worked with the California Highway Patrol to develop a brochure, which the CHP says has become the most asked for brochure it has ever produced, stressing the need for everyone to buckle up no matter how long or short the vehicle trip might be. He has brought his message to community organizations, service clubs and church groups and is available for speaking engagements by contacting his website at www.TONYV98.com.
In thanking Venditti for bringing his message to the Rotarians and their young guests, Rotary President David Janes said, “We are in awe of this young man’s courage and vision of how he can make a difference in lives of young people and everyone in our community.”
The Woodland Rotary Club was founded in 1926 and meets at noon on Tuesdays at the Hotel Woodland.