Ten years ago, the trajectory of Zack Golditch’s life took a turn.
Now, the survivor of the Aurora theater shooting hopes to positively alter the path of another Aurora Public Schools student with a life-changing scholarship.
The inaugural Hero’s Journey 5K run on July 23 will wind through Aurora to the 7/20 Memorial Reflection Garden and fund a scholarship for an Aurora Public Schools student that culminates a dream Golditch — who graduated from Gateway High School a year after the tragedy — has had for a long time.
“My life was changed that night and hopefully this scholarship can change the life of another student in a good way,” Golditch, 27, told The Sentinel.
Sign up for the Hero’s Journey 5K or contribute, here.
Golditch — then 17 years old — attended the “Dark Night Rising” premier at the theater with his sister and some fellow Gateway classmates when a stray bullet from the attack in an adjacent theater passed through his neck. It happened during an action sequence in the movie, so Golditch thought somebody had lit a firecracker in the theater and he got hit by a spark.
He rushed outside to find a chaotic scene and was taken to the hospital in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and gained a deep appreciation for the courage of the first responders he witnessed.
While the tragedy changed him on the inside, Golditch continued on his path on the football field, where he went on to play on scholarship as an offensive lineman at Colorado State University and then had chances with a variety of franchises in the National Football League before that dream came to an end. Before it became evident that a big professional payday wouldn’t come to pass, Golditch hoped to start a foundation or a scholarship himself.
Now, he has the chance to do so through the combination race-scholarship, which he presented to 7/20 Foundation CEO Heather Dearman, who has made it happen for the 10th anniversary.
“It was just the idea of a way to get people together,” he said. “I’ve never done a 5K before, but I know people who have done them and they seem so inclusive and so motivating. It gets people out in the sunshine to get some exercise. A 5K doesn’t sound too intimidating unlike a marathon. It was something I put out there and she (Dearman) ran with it. She’s built a great team and got many hands involved. It’s evolved and it should be a great, great event.”
Golditch is most looking forward to the end result: giving back to help an Aurora Public Schools senior that he can identify with to help them achieve a brighter future. The APS Foundation will handle the logistics of the scholarship, which is called the Zack Golditch Opportunity Scholarship.
“Not seeing all my friends go to college and being fortunate enough to have my school paid for through football, I couldn’t imagine taking on the burden of college debt,” he said. “With all those things piling up, I thought it would be a great goal for a scholarship to help somebody in Aurora Public Schools with those things. …I just felt it was one of the ways I could give back to APS and to Aurora for everything they had done for me after 7/20.”
The biggest way the shooting affected him was implanting a spark in him to help others.
At first, he wanted to become a police officer, but the law enforcement aspect of the job wasn’t for him. Then, Golditch discovered the work of firefighters and it spoke to him. Less than a year after his career as an athlete ended, he was hired with South Metro Fire Rescue and has worked there for the last two years.
“It replicated the role sports had in my life, to join the real world ultimate sports team,” he said. “I had the perspective of being scared and afraid and wanting to help and be on the other side. …This is a team sport, just with a different mission. I’m never alone now. I always have somebody by my side working towards the same common goal.
“I’ve loved every single second of it and I’m grateful.”
Golditch is living life to the fullest with a job that fulfills him and makes a difference in the community.
He also has a big milestone coming up in October when he will marry fiancé, Sara, whom he met at CSU. It will be another major step in his life that almost didn’t happen if there had been a different outcome that night.
“It’s tough to describe because so much has happened in my life in the last 10 years,” Golditch said. “I was 17 when it happened and I’m 27 now. The most critical and monumental steps of my early life have happened since then. It feels like a long time ago, but I still remember it like it happened last week. It’s wild to think it has been 10 years. It’s funny because now I’m old enough to where I can say I vividly remember things that happened 10 years ago.”