New Winner Announced at HERO Ceremony

Prevent drunk driving

HERO Award 1That is the goal of the HERO campaign, which aims to reward designated drivers for their efforts in preventing vehicular alcohol-related accidents and deaths. The campaign was established in 2000 and has been a large part of the University since 2007. The University held the annual HERO of the year award for the third year in a row last Wednesday.

The University Newswire said that the campaign started with Navy Ensign John Elliott from New Jersey, son of HERO campaign founder William Elliott, when he was hit by a drunk driver in 2000. It has grown into a nationwide program to save lives.

Students and faculty were able to nominate others and they also were able to nominate themselves. Four students were nominated for the award. Ryan Clutter, Chris Sikorski, Gary Mejia, and Chelsea Pfender were the contenders. The winner of the award was Mejia followed by second runner up Pfender and third runner up Clutter. Honorable Mention went to Sikorski.

Mejia will be featured on CBS Outdoor’s billboards locally and also will receive $200 to the Monmouth Mall, a HERO teeshirt and a certificate.

Pfender received $100 to Monmouth Mall, a HERO teeshirt and a certificate, while Clutter received $75 to Monmouth Mall, a HERO tee-shirt and a certificate as well. For his honorable mention, Sikorski received $25 to the mall, $10 to Einstein Bagels, a tee-shirt and a certificate.

Tyler Havens, Assistant Director of Student Activities for Fraternity and Sorority Life, won the Employee HERO award. “It is really tragic to have a loss of life so young, that’s one of the reasons I do what I do,” he commented.

President Paul G. Gaffney II started the introduction of the ceremony telling the audience about the University being the first to give this award. “It is the ultimate expression of charity; the concept is so critically important,” he began. “You should value yourself and take care of others. This HERO program puts those thoughts into real action.”

During the ceremony student Malcolm McDonald sang a song he had written reflecting his thanks and appreciation to the HERO’s out there. Mary Pat Angelini, Assembly Coordinator, said, “The program has really made drinking and driving uncool.”

HERO Award 2Mejia, the sophomore who won the award, had over 10 nominations, breaking the record at the University. He expressed his feelings about winning by saying it was “Weird, but good. People will learn from it and try to stop drinking and driving. My advice to others is to try and be a hero yourself because losing a life over that is not worth it.” Those who nominated Mejia described him as inspiring, reliable and a great friend. “I want to keep being an example for other people,” he added.

Concluding the ceremony was Mr. William Elliott, founder of the HERO campaign. He discussed how important the program is to him and would be to his son, John. Elliott talked of expanding the HERO campaign into other New Jersey universities as well as other states. He said that his goal is “…to have a million designated drivers and to make having one as automatic as wearing a seatbelt.”

Elliott also spilled the news about Monmouth County and Jersey Shore being the model county for the campaign. Over the summer, Elliott hopes to have the “Jersey Shore HERO Campaign” spread from Sandy Hook to Cape May, having bars participate in the cause. “We will try to get the bars to serve free soft drinks for designated drivers and we will list their names in ads and in our newspapers,” he explained. “It’s the longest war we’ve never won."

PHOTO COURTESY of Casey Alocco