Elon honors “Hometown Heroes” in annual ceremony

Three people who make a difference in the lives of others were honored Monday by Elon University in the 17th annual “Hometown Heroes” awards ceremony on campus. Freshmen class officers selected the honorees for “making a positive difference by touching lives and strengthening their home communities” in a program sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.


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This year’s honorees include:

Bill Hillar, Millersville, Maryland
Nominated and introduced by Savannah Chaisson in connection with Rex Water’s Elon 101 class
Award presented by Kyrstin Wallach, Secretary

Bill Hillar is an activist who speaks to all who will listen about his personal experiences concerning the atrocities of human trafficking. Hillar says that In 1988, while traveling with school mates, his daughter was abducted and forced into the sex industry. Despite an exhaustive, multi-country search, Hillar says he was unable to save his daughter from the fate that ultimately took her life. According to Hillar, the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson is partially based on his personal story. Rather than allow the loss of his daughter to devastate him for the rest of his life, Hillar says he has dedicated his life to educating people on the largely overlooked problem of human trafficking.

Meaghan Murphy, Lexington, Massachusetts
Nominated and introduced by Alyssa Kendall in connection with Chet Denlinger’s Elon 101 class
Award presented by Natalie Cuzmenco, Treasurer

Currently a first year student at High Point University, Meaghan Murphy is an  example of how young people can truly make a difference in their communities, regardless of their age.Murphy  was instrumental in organizing a fundraiser, “Volley for Molly,” to raise money for Molly Eisenberg, a teammate who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly after beginning her first year at college. This fundraiser went on to garner an attendance of over 1,000 people and raised significant funds for ovarian cancer research. The program has become an annual event in Lexington, and has been replicated in other communities to raise awareness of ovarian cancer in memory of Molly.

Mark Watros, Greenwich, Connecticut
Nominated and introduced by Peter Fox in connection with Janis Baughman’s Elon 101 class
Award presented by Alexandra Briggs, Senator

Upon his eighteenth birthday, Mark Watros enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corp. While serving his third and final tour of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006, Watros redirected a vehicle loaded with an explosive device. Despite being seriously injured during the interception, he continued protecting his fellow Marines until he was medically evacuated. The USMC awarded Mark a Purple Heart, and the Combat Distinguishing Device which exemplifies valor, bravery and heroic actions while facing an enemy in combat. After rehabilitating from his injuries, Watros personally requested to rejoin his unit and served the remainder of his tour. He is currently a student at Ferris State University while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional golfer.