The list of goals in Chad Michael Horne’s wallet started with the basics: graduate from college, get a job, rent an apartment. Then the dreams got loftier: get married, raise kids, win a Nobel Peace Prize “or two,” buy a home in the south of France, travel the world. The last item on his list was to die peacefully “at a ripe old age surrounded by family and with a smile on my face.” Instead, at the age of 22, Chad’s life was taken by a drunk driver.
Laura and Michael Horne of Freehold, NJ, heard about the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign in 2011, nearly two years after their son died. The message of using a designated driver hit home for them, since Chad was the designated driver for his passengers. The drunk driver that hit them had arranged in advance for a friend to drive him home, but his driver changed his mind at the last minute, leading to tragedy.
Laura’s sister, Cheryl Walsh, urged Laura to gather a team for the 2012 HERO Walk and seven people formed the team Chad’s Comrades. “I was so moved by the number of people at this walk,” Laura recalled. “It made me happy but also sad, because everyone there knew someone who had been killed by a drunk driver.” She remembers meeting Bill and Muriel Elliott there, telling them what an inspiration they were, and emailing them after the event to ask how they could help the non-profit HERO Campaign, which promotes the use of safe and responsible designated drivers in memory of all victims of DUI crashes, including the Elliott’s son John, who was killed by a drunk driver two months after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in May, 2000.
Since then, the Hornes have held several fundraisers, including a walk at Brookdale Community College and exercising at MAX Fitness in Marlboro, raising thousands of dollars. The HERO Walk became an October tradition, and Bill Elliott dubbed their growing team “Chad’s Champions,” which became their new name.
Chad’s list of goals included one item in bold lettering: GOLF!!! With this in mind, Laura, Mike and Cheryl recently organized a golf tournament at Pine Barrens Golf Club in Chad’s memory, expecting to raise about $5,000. The response far exceeded their hopes, with 74 golfers and many contributions of valuable silent auction items. The Horne family raised a total of $15,224 for the HERO Campaign – the most raised by any HERO Walk team in 2016.
“The generosity was overwhelming,” Laura said. “The staff at Pine Barrens was outstanding. We’re still pinching ourselves as to the success – and are looking forward to next year!”
At this year’s HERO Walk, Laura and Michael Horne participated in the taping of a new HERO Campaign TV commercial, which will be aired on cable TV channels in Monmouth County this month. They appear in the commercial saying, “We took the Pledge” to be designated drivers for friends and family whenever alcohol is served.
Nearly 30,000 designated drivers have taken the HERO Pledge on the campaign’s website to-date.