2018’s Granite Staters of the Month
I am constantly inspired by Granite Staters’ willingness to roll up their sleeves, pitch-in, and work together to help their neighbors, communities, and state.
In every month of the past year, I’ve been proud to recognize a few New Hampshire citizens who have truly embodied that all-hands-on-deck spirt of our state. As the year comes to a close, I wanted to take the time to share some of their incredible stories.
Former police officer and emergency medical technician Mark Cournoyer of Jaffrey has dedicated himself to making our roads safer. He volunteers his time to teach new drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, which according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention results in nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries daily in the United States. Mark delivers presentations at local driver education classes and schools to help keep our young people safe.
February’s Granite Stater of the Month is continuing New Hampshire’s proud tradition of women in leadership. When Cassandra Levesque learned that child marriage was still legal in New Hampshire due to a loophole in the law, she worked to get a bill introduced in the state legislature to close that loophole. When her bill didn’t pass at first, she kept at it — and last month she was elected a New Hampshire state representative.
In the wake of the senseless violence at Marjory Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the teachers and students from Spaulding High School in Rochester met to discuss how they could help the survivors and memorialize the 17 people who were murdered. The students at Spaulding chose to collect donations, raising $3,271 for the Parkland community. I am incredibly proud of these young leaders.
At 70 years old, Jerry Lachance undertook a more than 2,000-mile journey by bike from Florida to the northernmost tip of New Hampshire to raise funds for Project Hero, a nonprofit that builds adaptive bikes and helps support veterans and first responders impacted by injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. A Vietnam veteran and volunteer firefighter of more than 20 years, this was Jerry’s second journey to raise money for Project Hero. He has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the cause through his rides, and has been an inspiration up and down the East Coast.
In May, I was proud to recognize a courageous second grader, MaKenzie Sheehan of Monroe, New Hampshire who helped save her family when their house caught on fire. Drawing on the fire education she received at school, she was able to alert her family and they were all able to make it out of the house safely. MaKenzie’s actions are an excellent reminder of how critical it is that people of all ages are equipped with the knowledge of what to do in an emergency.
Over a decade ago at a military funeral, Master Sergeant Lee Hirtle of Northfield, New Hampshire noticed that “Taps,” the traditional bugle call performed at military funerals, was playing from a C.D. player hidden behind a gravestone. Believing that all fallen veterans deserve to be honored with live music, he found his old high school trumpet and learned to sound “taps.” Since 2007, he has sounded “Taps” more than 3,650 times at the funerals of fellow veterans and service members. For his dedication to honoring those who have served, I was so proud to recognize him as the Granite Stater of the Month.
In July, I was happy to recognize a dedicated member of the Salem community, Dianne Paquette. Dianne has helped raise funds to repair two elementary school playgrounds and to restore the historic Salem Depot Train Station. She also formed a group of law enforcement officials, firefighters, and others she calls the “Village” who share her commitment to helping their community. Led by Dianne, the “Village” hosted multiple fundraisers to support the families impacted by two fires in Salem and help them get back on their feet.
Since 2012, Positive Street Art has promoted the arts in Nashua through urban and public art projects — including their newest mural “Take Courage,” which is a tribute to those lost to the devastating opioid epidemic as well as a symbol of support for those in recovery. New Hampshire has been one of the States that has been hardest hit by the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic. I am proud to recognize those involved with Positive Street Art for their efforts to raise awareness about the most pressing public health and safety challenge of our time, and for their support for their fellow Granite Staters impacted by this crisis.
Laura Landerman-Garber of Hollis is a true embodiment of New Hampshire’s “all-hands-on-deck” spirit. She began her tradition of collecting holiday cards for troops years ago when she made all of her holiday dinner guests write a card to a service member before they could eat their turkey dinner. This tradition has continued to grow as Laura has engaged her entire community and reached out to churches, synagogues, scout troops, schools, public officials, and the local media.
Last year, Laura aimed to send 5,000 cards, one for every member of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt where a family friend was stationed. But Laura ended up far exceeding her goal, and received 17,000 cards. This year, Laura is aiming to top even that with a goal of sending 25,000 total cards, 5,000 for members of each branch of the military.
Hannah Guillemette, a high school freshman from Bedford has made it her mission to address bullying in schools through her anti-bullying and kindness campaign called “I’ve Got Your Back,” also known as “IGYB.” She started the campaign while she was in middle school and began by distributing 600 IGYB wristbands with a mission tag prompting her peers to be inclusive, kind, and respectful to each other. The effort quickly grew and has touched almost 30,000 people across New Hampshire and 14 other states. Hannah said she became inspired to act after witnessing bullying in her own school and being bullied herself for standing up for her friends.
Officer Thompson E. Potter III of Epping is helping send students from traditionally underserved backgrounds to summer camp.
Officer Potter credits the YMCA camp he attended as a boy with helping instill in him the values of respect and responsibility, and he wanted to extend that opportunity to other students. His goal was to raise $5,000 to send five boys to the YMCA camp, but instead he raised $13,000, which was enough to send six boys to summer camp and outfit them with all the gear they would need. Officer Potter intends to continue his efforts next summer, with the goal of sending five boys and five girls to camp.
As the Camp Fire torched homes and communities in Northern California, Schilling Beer Co. joined a national “Resilience” fundraiser spearheaded by Sierra Nevada Brewing. As part of the initiative, Schilling Beer Co. is joining breweries across the country to help brew the Resilience Butte Country Proud IPA — of which all of the proceeds will go to relief efforts in Butte County, California. Schilling Beer Co. also played an integral role by lending their trademarked name of “Resilience” to the cause.
I was proud to have the opportunity to recognize the character and incredible achievements of some of our finest Granite Staters this year. I hope we can all follow their example of service to others in the New Year.
If you’d like to nominate someone as a Granite Stater of the Month, you can fill out a link on my website here.