Drunk driving victim’s family promotes designated driving

Had a friend stopped the man who killed their son while driving drunk from driving on July 22, 2000, Bill and Muriel Elliott’s son John would probably be alive today.

The Elliotts urged College students last Wednesday to join the HERO Campaign, an organization they created in John’s memory to spread designated driver awareness.

HERO stands for Human Education Resource Officer, which was John’s job at the Naval Academy he attended. HERO Campaign was launched in August of 2000.

The Elliotts said they hope that the campaign will eventually reach a national level.

“We want to make sure that what happened to John will never happen to anyone else,” Bill Elliott said.

As a result of the HERO Campaign, new legislation called “John’s Law” has been put into effect in New Jersey.

With the law, police officers are required to hold DWI offenders for eight hours and take possession of their vehicles for 12 hours.

The Elliott family came to the College in hopes that students will help promote the HERO Campaign.

The Elliotts encouraged the audience to spread the word about HERO, not only on campus, but also in the surrounding community and beyond.

After explaining that the College is the first institution of higher education in New Jersey to recognize the HERO Campaign, Bill Elliott mentioned several ways in which the students can get involved and make a difference.

He suggested holding a volleyball-a-thon or a non-alcoholic “Virgin Party.”

“You represent the solution,” Bill Elliott said.

Possibly the most surprising aspect of the event was the positive spin that was put on the devastating topic.

When tears may have been expected at the event, there was a sense of hope in finding the remedy to a nationwide problem.

“We think this is a positive thing, and through John, we can send this message,” Muriel Elliot said.

The Elliott family taught students that they can take action, whether it is by hanging posters, fund-raising, buying the blue “Be A Hero” bracelets for a $1 donation or by being a designated driver.

“You can make a difference by stopping a friend from driving drunk,” Muriel said.

The HERO Campaign uses public service announcements, car decals and posters to spread its message.

Also, it is working with local bars and the Phillies’ Citizen’s Bank Park in giving out free soft drinks to all designated drivers.

Students said they were moved and impressed by the Elliotts’ ability to use their loss to prevent other tragedies from occurring.

“I think the family is very brave for coming to speak to us students about their grief,” Alisha Brown, sophomore communications major, said. “But I’m really impressed that they are so positive. They aren’t bitter at all.”

Caitlin Fitzpatrick, freshman biology major, said, “I really respect that they spend so much time fighting for a good cause.”

The guest speakers concluded with a question and answer session with the audience.

Several students expressed their admiration for the family’s perseverance and positive nature through its ordeal.

“We want this to be something positive. John would want it that way,” Bill Elliott said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Inter-Greek Council (IGC) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).