Honoring NJ student who pledged to be designated driver, but was killed by drunk
CLARK — Michael T. Sot was a 20-year-old sophomore at The College of New Jersey when he pledged to remain sober on a Saturday night in December 2018 and serve as the designated driver for his fraternity brothers and friends between a party and their campus housing.
Sot had made several trips as the designated driver. Then, on his final trip, around 2 a.m. on Dec. 2, his car was struck by a drunk driver. Sot and his five passengers were severely injured. They survived, but unfortunately, Sot succumbed to his injuries two days later on Dec. 4 after being in a coma.
Sot’s hometown of Clark, had a vigil planned for that evening of Dec. 4 to help pray for his recovery, according to his childhood friend, Julia Sapia. When the town received word of Sot’s passing, they still held the vigil. She said it was so special for the community to come together and honor this amazing young man.
David Lamar, 25, of West Windsor, was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for causing the drunk driving crash that killed Sot. He must serve at least six years under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act for reckless death by auto. He must also serve consecutive three-year prison terms for two counts of assault by auto.
Who was Michael Sot?
Sapia said Sot was one of her first friends when she moved to Clark at age 7.
“He was just a caring and selfless person. That’s the best way I can describe him. He always showed up. He would open the car door for you if he came to pick you up. He would always be there if you needed him. If you were upset, he would be there. If you were happy, he would be there. He was always congratulating everyone, just a kind soul and the life of the party,” Sapia said.
He had so much greatness to keep living and it was unfortunately cut short, she added.
Sot was remembered during TCNJ’s 2021 graduation for math majors. He was studying to become an actuary when his life was tragically cut short.
In high school, Sot was a standout high school baseball player and member of the National Honor Society.
The Michael T. Sot Walk
His life will continue to be celebrated with “The 2nd Annual Remembering Michael T. Sot Hero Walk” on Sat. June 18 at Arthur L. Johnson High School (where Sot graduated in 2017).
Check-in time for the walk is at 10 a.m. for people who did not pre-register. Participants will receive a T-shirt and a wristband to participate in the walk.
Registration is $25 for adults and $15 for students.
At 10:45 a.m. there will be a ceremony to remember this young man with guest speakers, including Sapia and Sot’s parents.
The walk begins at 11 a.m and lasts between one hour and 90 minutes. There will be a DJ on hand playing music, face painting, and raffle prizes including New York Jets and Giants memorabilia, and Uber gift cards.
Where will the proceeds go?
Proceeds from the walk support the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers. The campaign was established by Bill Elliott, whose son, John was killed by a drunk driver in 2000, just two months after graduating from the United States Naval Academy.
The campaign’s mission is to prevent these drunk driving tragedies through the promotion and use of safe and sober designated drivers.
Sapia said the money raised from the walk goes to the HERO campaign in Sot’s name. The organization has been around a long time and she said they put up billboards of Sot and other designated drivers who have been killed by drunk drivers.
“They are constantly trying to promote designated driving. We’re actually in the process of putting up a sign in our town for Michael that they are using the money that we raised last year for,” she said.
Elliott said the Sot family honors Michael’s memory and his commitment to designated driving, by working with the HERO Campaign to ensure other families don’t go through this pain and loss.
“He was regarded as someone who classmates, family, and friends could always depend on to do the right thing,” Elliot said on the HERO Campaign website.
Last year, the first annual walk for Michael Sot raised $39,000. Sapia said she hopes this year’s walk raises more money for a wonderful cause.
“My goal is to have these middle-schoolers, elementary schoolers, high schoolers that maybe didn’t know Michael personally, but they still come to the event and they support the cause, and they know not to drink and drive and to be the designated driver,” Sapia said.
She started a Hero Club at ALJ, where Sot went to high school with a gym teacher, Laura Bundy. Sapia said incoming freshmen don’t know Michael or his story.
She feels it is partly her responsibility to help say Michael’s name, share his legacy and have them be supportive of this cause.
More info on the walk and the HERO Campaign can be found here.