HEROES Raise Over $50,000 for Designated Driving Campaign

HERO Campaign co-founders Bill and Muriel Elliott stand with their family and hold up HERO hats at the start of the walk Saturday.

OCEAN CITY – After a week’s delay thanks to a nor’easter and threat of Hurricane Joaquin, the HERO Walk finally marched down the Ocean City Boardwalk Saturday, Oct. 10. The HERO Campaign raised its goal of $50,000 to promote the use of designated drivers.

This year, about 500 supporters came out to support to the cause, and campaign co-founder Bill Elliott said many more donated.

“We probably would have had twice that amount (of walkers) if it was last week,” Elliott said. “It shows the strength of the campaign. These are dedicated people, campaign supporters. To them, it’s a labor of love, like it is for us.”

Team Halliday of Ocean City was the top fundraiser this year. In addition, the Ocean City Police donated $700.

Elliott, and his wife, Muriel, of Egg Harbor Township, started the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers 15 years ago after their son, US Navy Ensign John Elliott, was killed by a drunken driver on his way home. The HERO Walk began in Ocean City five years ago.

“It’s heartwarming to see everyone who cares about the campaign,” Elliott said Saturday. He said since its inception, the HERO Campaign has been expanding, now reaching seven states and including partnerships with schools and colleges, professional sports leagues, law enforcement and the licensed beverage industry.

A recent Stockton University survey found that the HERO Campaign is influencing thousands of southern New Jersey residents to become designated drivers.

Uber, a technology company that connects users with drivers using an app, has recently become involved with the campaign, this year donating $1,000 to the Walk, as well as signing up 1,500 of its drivers to take the HERO pledge. In addition, Uber drivers will be directed to areas of increased demand on weekend nights to ensure rides are available for anyone who needs a designated driver.

“I feel like I have become a designated driver based on the fact that I feel like I’m out doing good deeds all the time,” said Uber driver Lance Zeaman, 76, of Linwood, who was participating in the walk on Saturday.

Zeaman said he got into the profession after his significant other, Barbara “Bunny” Gold, died two years ago. The two hosted a radio show together on SoundsofPhillyRadio.com. Zeaman said he became depressed. “And I read about these guys and I thought it was fascinating,” he said of Uber. “I figured it will get me out of the house.”

Zeaman has been an Uber driver in South Jersey since the beginning of the year. He said he is often picking up people from bars and clubs in and around Atlantic City and quickly realized he was doing more than just giving a ride.

“This service, Uber, was saving lives. This was a priceless service, so it just wasn’t about making money,” he said. One evening over the summer, Zeaman happened to be the driver who arrived to pick up Jennifer Elliott, daughter of Bill and Muriel Elliott.

Jennifer told Zeaman that night that he was her “hero,” and explained to Zeaman about her parents’ organization, which promotes the use of designated drivers. He was so enthused; he reached out to corporate to share his story.

On Saturday, Zeaman and the hundreds of other walkers gathered at Sixth Street and the boardwalk for a Hats Off to HEROES celebration, tossing hundreds of hats in the air to start the walk. A number of “memory teams” teams supported the families of loved ones lost to drunken driving crashes.

Walkers also signed up for the campaign’s 100,000 HEROES Challenge by pledging to become designated drivers.

Elliott said that so far, 30,000 people have taken the pledge.


Source: Shore News Today  | Author: Claire Lowe | October 14, 2015

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