Keeping Riley’s memory alive

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Courage. Sacrifice. Honor.

Those are the words greeting visitors to the Riley Howell Foundation website, along with the following description.

”On April 30, 2019, Riley Howell was in class at UNC Charlotte. Seven minutes in, shots rang out and in a split-second decision, Riley chose to fight. He would not live to know that his actions saved others.

Riley died as he lived — selflessly, bravely and in service to others. In memory of his courageous act and to honor a remarkable young man, The Riley Howell Foundation Trust will support and advocate for families affected by violence.”

Scott Pritchard, Howell’s uncle, was one of several family members who helped set up the fledgling foundation — one that will focus on the hope and love that is at the center of his nephew’s story.

The initial purpose for establishing the foundation was to support families impacted by violence, but now the focus is more developed.

“At this point we want to keep it more broad,” he said. “We know there are other families, other communities who have gone through this, but there’s never been a Riley Howell. This has the potential to possibly influence our national and international dialogue about school shootings. That’s what we’re hopeful for.”

The message behind Howell’s story that resonates is what a better world this would be if all lived like Riley Howell, Pritchard said.

“What we just keep coming back to, and what’s at the heart of this story is that the light has overcome the darkness,” Pritchard said. “We’ve got to continue to carry that message forward. It may be too early know the practical way that manifests itself, but it will be the guiding spirit.”

Pritchard said faith is the “absolute bedrock” for the entire family — and for Howell.

“You don’t have the spirit and light in you that Riley had without that coming from God,” he said. “That will be such a part of the foundation. We’re not going to focus on the gunshots or the trauma to Riley’s body. It’s the fact people are talking about his life and sacrifice and about Riley as a person. All of this is overcoming the despair and the tragedy. Riley showed us a way to live your life with reckless abandon and how to put others before yourself. That’s what we need. We need Riley Howell.”

To donate to the foundation and help keep Howell’s memory alive, visit

Smoky Mountain Times

Mailing Address:
PO Box 730
1 River Street
Bryson City, NC 28713 
Phone: 828-488-2189
Fax: 828-488-0315