The first HERO WALK for Monmouth County held at Brookdale Community College, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Mary Frank
Asbury Park Press 5:58 p.m. EDT June 8, 2014
MIDDLETOWN – Chad Michael Horne, 22, of Freehold was the designated driver when he was killed by a drunk driver after leaving his grandmother’s wake in Bethlehem, Pa. in January 2010. His two passengers also died in the crash.
Horne, a former Brookdale student, was remembered Sunday at the first Monmouth County HERO Walk on the campus of Brookdale Community College, as were other New Jersey victims of drunk drivers, whose names and photographs were posted on a large banner outside the student center.
The HERO Campaign is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the John R. Elliott Foundation that is dedicated to promoting the use of safe and sober designated drivers to prevent drunk-driving tragedies. The foundation was created by the family of Elliott, who grew up in Egg Harbor and had graduated in May 2000 from the US Naval Academy. Elliott was killed in a collision with a drunk driver 14 years ago in Salem County.
“We decided to support the HERO Campaign because it is a positive way we can remember my brother,” said Horne’s sister, Bryanna Garnett, of Baltimore, Md. She added that her cousin and a friend of her mother’s, who were in the car her brother was driving, also died in the crash.
Anthony R. Bruno, 27, of Bethlehem, Pa., the drunk driver charged in the crash, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and is now serving 7 ½ to 18 years in state prison, she said.
About 200 people, from youths to seniors, had preregistered for the HERO walk at Brookdale, said Cheryl Walsh, of Toms River, who is Horne’s aunt.
“When I heard about the HERO Campaign I was the first one of our family to walk in the Ocean City walk. Then, the following year, six people walked with me and now this year we have many people walking today,” Walsh said. “We have found a way to turn our grief into something positive.”
Walsh said there are many walks to raise money for awareness and a cure for diseases, but walking to change behavior is a more difficult challenge.
William D. Elliott, John Elliott’s father, said he will never forget the early morning knock on his door by police who came to tell him his son was dead.
The driver responsible for the crash was drunk and had been arrested by police two hours earlier but was released to a friend. The driver then got behind the wheel of his vehicle again and caused the crash. As a result, John’s Law was adopted by the state Legislature in 2001. It requires police to impound the cars of those arrested for driving under the influence for up to 12 hours. A national version of John’s Law was enacted in 2005, and provides incentives for states to impound the cars of those charged with DUI.
“The sadness and grief never goes away. My heart is always broken,” said John Elliott’s mother, Muriel. Her son was driving home to help celebrate her birthday when the crash happened in Salem County.
The foundation has a number of initiatives to promote the use of sober designated drivers to keep drunken drivers off the roadways, including registering designated drivers, displaying “Hero” wristbands and car decals, recruiting taverns and restaurants to serve free soft drinks to designated drivers, and helping to establish HERO chapters at high schools and colleges.
“Over the last 10 years the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show a 35 percent decline in drunk-driving accidents,” William Elliott said. “Education is making a difference.”
Meanwhile, Molly Berkowitz, a registered nurse who is trauma injury prevention coordinator for Meridian Health, is doing her part to give students a graphic look at what is likely to happen to them if they are involved in a distracted or drunken driving accident.
“They need to know what they will face if they are driving or a passenger,” she said, adding that as a member of the Shark River Hills First Aid Squad and a trauma nurse at Jersey Shore Medical Center’s regional trauma center in Neptune, she can provide the details of what their rescuers might see.
So far, through the end of May, Berkowitz, whose sister was killed in a Toms River accident caused by a drunk driver 25 years ago, said she has reached 6,500 students in Monmouth and Ocean counties through programs at high schools.
The Middletown police department, which took part in the walk at Brookdale, has also educated high school students each year through its Rude Awakening program. The program gives students a realistic look of the life-altering ramifications of drinking and driving.
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