In her year as Miss NH, Holly Blanchard plans to make a difference

Union Leader Correspondent
May 04. 2015 5:49AM

Holly Blanchard waves to the crowd for the first time as Miss New Hampshire. (CASSIDY SWANSON/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

DERRY — It was fitting that the 2015 winner of the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program was crowned in the auditorium of her own hometown high school.

“I am completely on cloud nine,” Holly Blanchard told the New Hampshire Union Leader the day after winning the title. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet…I woke up this morning and I went out to my kitchen, and I had to check and make sure that the crown was really there.”

Blanchard, 23, of Derry, was crowned Miss New Hampshire on Saturday night at Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre. Chosen out of a pool of 27 women, Blanchard, a graduate of Pinkerton and the University of Connecticut and director of youth programs for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire, will represent the Granite State come September at the 2015 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

Blanchard competed in the pageant as Miss Rockingham County. Her philanthropic platform is “Charity from the Heart: Giving Time to Make a Difference” and her talent was baton twirling.

Blanchard said she has been developing her platform, which encourages young people to volunteer, for the past 10 years, and that she has been able to incorporate it with her work at Make-A-Wish by providing volunteer opportunities for kids through the nonprofit, which grants wishes to children with critical and terminal illnesses.

“The children that we’re serving here in the state of New Hampshire are going to school with these students, and their classmates and their peers want to help them recover and go through the healing process,” she said. “It’s been so inspiring for me to see how motivated these kids are to make a difference in their peers’ lives.”

As Miss New Hampshire, Blanchard will receive a $10,000 scholarship, which she will use to help pay off her student loans. She also was gifted with a car to drive for the year of her reign, and a fur coat valued at $7,000 from the New Hampshire Trappers Association, made with furs donated by association members.

Blanchard said that being Miss New Hampshire has been a goal of hers since she was a little girl.

“I started becoming involved with the program at the age of 13,” Blanchard said. She competed in the Miss New Hampshire Outstanding Teen for five years, and 2015 was her fifth year competing in Miss New Hampshire.

Last year, Blanchard was first runner up to Megan Cooley, also a former Miss Rockingham County. Currently in her last year of eligibility to compete in the program, she was determined to make one last bid for the crown.

“ ... I knew that I would have forever regretted it if I hadn’t tried one last time,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself, not knowing if I hadn’t tried one more time.”

When she started watching pageants at the age of seven, Blanchard said, the women she saw were her role models.

“I knew that, one day, I wanted to be up on that stage and kind of make it full circle,” she said. “I know now that I am a role model to some of these younger girls that are out there in the crowd watching.”

Blanchard said she counts many of the women she’s met through Miss New Hampshire among her best friends.

“I know that they will be supportive of my journey, and I will be supportive of them if they continue to compete in this program,” she said. And despite the inherent competition of the program, Blanchard said, “it’s really like a sisterhood.”

“Girls compete against one another, but women empower one another,” she said. “And I think that’s what this program is all about.”

Blanchard said she and first runner up Sarah Tubbs of Sandown shared a special moment before she was announced as the winner. “I just want to let her know that, regardless of who it was (that won), I was very happy whether it was myself or her,” she said.

After all the years she’s put in, Blanchard said, finally winning the crown is her dream come true.

“It feels almost surreal,” she said.

In her acceptance speech after being crowned, Blanchard thanked the staff of Miss New Hampshire, her family, boyfriend, baton twirling team, twirling and dance coaches, and local program directors.

“I hope I can make you proud this year as Miss New Hampshire,” she told the crowd packed into the Stockbridge. “We have not had a baton twirler go to Miss America in a very long time from New Hampshire, and I’ll work my very hardest to bring home the Miss America crown to the state of New Hampshire.”

Blanchard told the Union Leader that she has a busy summer ahead of her as she prepares for the national pageant.

“I am absolutely ready for it,” she said. “We have a fitness sponsor for Miss New Hampshire, and I’m excited to continue training to be in the best possible shape I can be.”

Whether she wins the national title or not, Blanchard said, during her year as Miss New Hampshire, she plans to reach out to as many young girls as possible to promote the program to a new generation. “I try to encourage girls (that) it’s not always about winning — it’s about improving as an individual, and accomplishing goals that you set out for yourself,” she said.

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