'Hero in Life' essay winner announced

James Donohue, 11, of Warner, wins tickets to NASCAR race for himself and his 'extraordinary' hero, and $3,000 for school

James Donohue, 11, of Warner, and a sixth-grader at Kearsarge Regional Middle School in N. Sutton, stands with his real-life hero, George Smith, also of Warner. James won the “A Hero in Your Life” contest by the New Hampshire Lottery and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


The New Hampshire Lottery and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway made a surprise appearance at Kearsarge Regional Middle School in North Sutton earlier this week to deliver the good news in person to the winner of their “Hero in Your Life” essay contest. 

James Donohue, 11, of Warner, and a sixth-grader at Kearsarge Regional Middle School, won for his “Hero” essay about his mentor, George Smith of Warner. The two met through The Friends Program, which runs mentor programs through the state.

Thanks to his winning essay, Kearsarge Regional Middle School was awarded $2,500 and James’ classroom, led by teacher Mrs. McCloskey, was awarded $500. James and his family, as well as George Smith and his wife, will travel by limousine from Concord to Loudon to attend the SYLVANIA 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this coming Sunday.  

“James and George have a very special friendship, and James’ essay explained how important George is in his life,” said Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery. “We were thrilled to honor James, his school, his classroom and teacher Mrs. McCloskey, and his real-life hero with a special surprise celebration this morning.  The New Hampshire Lottery is committed to supporting education in the state and we want to thank Principal Don West and his excellent team for helping us keep the surprise a secret!”

In the essay, James describes how he has known George – “this extraordinary man” - for a little over a year but feels he has known him a lifetime.  They do many things together from enjoying the “best steak tips” ever, to playing the game of darts, to learning how to safely use equipment to tackle the large wood pile in front of James’ home.  

George Smith is part of the Parks and Recreation program for the town of Warner where he has improved and maintains the sports fields so all families may benefit. “If it weren’t for George, the sports fields in my town would not even exist,” wrote James in his essay. “As you can tell, George has been a great help to me and the town of Warner, because whenever there is something that needs to be done, you can always count on George.”

More than 85 classrooms from across the state participated in the contest.  

James and George will receive a special commendation at the race track on Sunday by Governor Maggie Hassan.

“What a great example of a mentor making a positive impact in the life of an 11-year-old boy,” said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Heroes come in all forms and it is wonderful that James was able to use this great New Hampshire Lottery initiative to recognize George. We are very pleased to host James and George and their families this Sunday at the Sylvania 300.”

Each member of the winning class at Kearsarge Regional Middle School who also submitted essays, as well as their teacher Mrs. McCloskey, will receive two tickets to the race.

The New Hampshire Lottery and New Hampshire Motor Speedway also awarded $250 to each of 12 runner-up classrooms at the following schools for their participation in the essay contest:
New Durham Elementary
Boscawen Elementary
Chichester Central
New Boston Central
Colebrook Elementary
Hinsdale Elementary
Inter-Lakes Elementary, Meredith
Nancy Loud School, E. Rochester
New Hampton Community School
Maple Ave Elementary, Goffstown
Pittsfield Elementary
Goffs Falls, Manchester

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