Passenger raises money to send Olympian's Uber-driving dad to Rio

Liz Willock (left) helped raise enough money for Ellis Hill (right) to see his son compete at the Olympics. (GoFundMe)
Liz Willock (left) helped raise enough money for Ellis Hill (right) to see his son compete at the Olympics. (GoFundMe)


As self-serving as it can be at times, the power of social media can be beautifully communal, too.

A chance encounter between a global concierge service employee and her Uber driver spawned a GoFundMe campaign to fund the father of a U.S. Olympian’s trip to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Games.

On a trip to Philadelphia last week, Liz Willock, a regional sales leader for Clincierge — a company that plans travel and housing for medical patients in search of new clinical trials worldwide — met Ellis Hill, the disabled father of U.S. Olympic Track & Field shot putter Darrell Hill, according to WJAR-TV.

The elder Hill drives an Uber in his retirement. When Willock rode as a passenger in his car, the subject of the Olympics arose in conversation. As Darrell explained his son — a First Team All-American at Penn State University — was headed to Rio de Janeiro, she naturally asked if he planned to go. “I’d like to go,” he told her, per Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate, “but I really can’t afford to go.”

[Related: Crowdfunding and the plight of the underappreciated Olympian]

The wheels of the concierge in Willock began to spin, and she established a GoFundMe campaign with the aim of raising $7,500 for Ellis Hill’s travel. “As a proud father, Ellis dreams of traveling to Rio to see his son compete,” she wrote in the description. “Please help make this American dream come true.”

As NBC10 first shared the story of Willock’s effort to raise funds for Ellis, his son began a social media campaign. His Penn State and U.S. Olympic teammates quickly joined the effort to raise awareness.

Within two days, Willock had eclipsed her $7,500 goal, thanks in part to a $1,545 donation from Pennsylvania attorney and former Penn lacrosse player Robert Mongeluzzi. “I can’t think of anything that would make a father prouder than to go watch his son in the Olympics,” Mongeluzzi told NBC10.

Clincierge will coordinate Ellis Hill’s transportation to and from the airport, Willock told WJAR-TV. “I think it’ll be one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life,” she added.

Darrell Hill placed third with a personal-best throw of 70 feet, 11.75 inches at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last month to qualify for the Olympics in Rio. Naturally, Ellis is stoked to see his son compete.

“It’s going to mean a whole lot to me,” Ellis, who is now in the process of getting the first passport of his life, told NBC10. “Many times, I really wanted to be with him on other meets that he was at, you know, and had to apologize for one reason or another, and this is actually what he’s been working toward for a long time. It’s going to be extremely awesome for me to experience this.”

You might even say it’s Uber awesome. (Too much? OK, I’ll see myself out.)

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