Various organizations and initiatives in the state and nationwide focus on the importance of having a responsible designated driver if one plans to drink. A local nonprofit that has had a large role in reducing drunk driving incidents — thus saving lives — is the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.
The nonprofit was created in 2000 in honor of the man whose name is in the title: Elliott was struck and killed by a drunk driver just two months after graduating from the United States Naval Academy.
The organization thrives thanks to donations and support from residents and others willing to support its cause. Recently, the nonprofit received a donation of more than $1,500 from a recently retired detective from the Gloucester Township Police Department.
Glenn Labove had been with the department for 22 years before retiring last month because of injuries he sustained after being struck by a drunk driver in a March car accident. He suffered a detached bicep muscle and other physical injuries for which he was still undergoing surgeries months later.
Labove still battles migraines and light sensitivity, among other issues that left him “unable to perform the duties of a police officer, as a result of the injuries,” he said.
While he didn’t want to leave the force, Labove has found a way to help others in his retirement. Before the incident, his only familiarity with the Elliott story was due to John’s Law, legislation that requires a suspected drunk driver be detained until sober, unless a relative or friend takes legal, written responsibility for him or her.
The law was passed shortly after Elliott’s death; the drunk driver who hit him was arrested earlier on the evening before the accident, but was behind the wheel again after being released to a friend.
After his own accident led to retirement, Labove wanted to help support the Hero Campaign in its efforts to reduce drunk driving incidents.
“After learning that the driver that hit me was under the influence … it was an easy decision to help support the campaign,” Labove noted. “Nowadays, with how easy is it to get a Lyft or Uber ride … there’s just no excuse for driving under the influence, rather than taking advantage of a safe means of getting home.”
Labove’s donation of $1,500 helps support various programs and initiatives of the nonprofit, such as safe ride programs with bars and taverns and partnerships with school and sports teams.
“The HERO Campaign is designed to promote not only making good choices, but also to help remind people of the importance of having a designated driver if in a group,” the retired detective said.
“I was very fortunate in being able to retire and help raise money following my accident. Those that were able to extend support for the Hero Campaign, I’m happy that was able to go towards a worthy cause that can help prevent these things from happening in the future the way that it impacted me.”
In the past decade, New Jersey has seen a 20-percent decrease in alcohol-related fatalities and incidents, something the HERO Campaign hopes to keep seeing in the future, according to founder and Chairman Bill Elliott, John’s father.
“Our growth is dependent on the support we get and the partnerships we develop, with one of the strongest groups we partner with being law enforcement,” he said.
“[Labove’s] support is particularly meaningful, because he saw the effects of drunk driving first hand. But law enforcement in general sees its effects while on the job, and we are committed to helping decrease the number of incidents.”
Although Labove was connected to the nonprofit for a negative reason, Elliott is thankful the retiree survived his accident and was able to turn it into a positive for others.
“We welcome Glenn into a family and club that nobody ever wants to be a part of, somebody that’s been hurt by a drunk driver,” he noted. “But to be able to turn it around and help others like he has is certainly commendable.”
For more information on the Hero Campaign for Designated Drivers, visit www.herocampaign.org.