Bill Elliott may not be an official resident of Ocean City, but according to Executive Director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce Michele Gillian, he's an Ocean City favorite.
"It feels like Ocean City is his home away from home," Gillian said of Elliott. "Bill's partnered with Ocean City for so many years, he kicked off his HERO Campaign in Ocean City 12 years ago, he's one of Ocean City hometown favorites and, to us, he's really top notch."
Beloved enough to make fun of. On Sept. 20, the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce held its annual roast, meant both to poke fun at and honor a distinguished community member.
Elliott was this year's lucky roastee, joining a list that includes Ocean City's "Finest Builder" Scott Halliday, 2011; president of the Ocean City Greater Chamber of Commerce and Ocean City "Vegas Connection" Brian Broadley, 2010; John Hansen, Ocean City's retired director of finance and many more. The event was held at the Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro in Somers Point with about 100 people attending.
Elliott, of Egg Harbor Township, is the recently retired executive director of Shore's Health Foundation - a title he held for 21 years - and the founder of the Ensign John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.
He founded the HERO Campaign in 2000, shortly after his son, John, was killed by a drunk driver, and has since rallied more than 150 bars and taverns to sign on with the designated-driver campaign. In 2008, Elliott was named the recipient of the Public Service Award by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for his work with the HERO Campaign. He will continue his work with the campaign during his retirement.
Chamber President Broadley said Elliott is a pillar of the community.
"His bio say it all," Broadley said. "He's really too good to roast. There's nothing bad to say."
As executive director of Shore's Health Foundation, Elliott was responsible for the hospital's fundraising, wellness, and auxiliary relations programs. He raised $20 million for the new Baker Surgical Pavilion.
Still, his friends tried to roast him.
Attending the roast were Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, former Ocean City Mayor Bud Knight, Egg Harbor Township Mayor James 'Sonny' McCullough, Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo, Ocean City Councilman and Freeholder Gary Jessel, Ocean City public relations director Mark Soifer, Atlantic County Freeholder Frank Formica and state Sen. Jeff Van Drew.
Several representatives of Shore Medical Center were also at the roast, including President Tom Mundell.
Mayor Gillian presented Elliott with a piece of the Ocean City Boardwalk and teased him for his relentlessness to coerce people to donate their money to his causes.
"I used to tell Scott Halliday, 'Keep him away from me,'" Gillian said. "He doesn't give up."
Elliott said he is honored to be chosen as this year's roastee, even if it means being teased, adding Ocean City will always have a special place in his heart.
"It's the greatest family resort we can't afford to live in," he said. "Jay, you talked about my fundraising abilities.
"Well, I have a great idea for you, Jay. I think what you ought to do is rename Ocean City Gillian's Island. You can do three-hour tours, and, Michele, you might have to change you name to Mary Ann or Ginger."
Contact Elisa Lala: