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A Proud Member of the Elks Family

By 2009 Elks Legacy Scholar Lauren Kuhn
2015 Miss America 4th runner-up Lauren Kuhn
speaking to Hoop Shoot Finalists at the 2015 National Finals
Springfield, Massachusetts—the birthplace of basketball. Believe it or not, my time as Miss Massachusetts had not yet taken me to Springfield for an event surrounding basketball. I jumped at the opportunity to be the keynote speaker and National Anthem performer for the Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals. As a 2009 Elks Legacy scholar, I looked forward to the chance to reunite with my Elks family but what I didn’t know was that I’d be reuniting with some of my biological family too! When I stepped through the elevators in my downtown hotel in Springfield, I was stunned to see my grandmother and grandfather waiting for me. They live more than two hours from Seattle, Washington, so they had a long way to travel! The Elks National Foundation surprised me with their attendance. Why was this so meaningful? Let me share.

Lauren taking a selfie with her grandparents!
My grandfather Melvin Thompson is a life-long Elk and ran the Hoop Shoot at Hoquiam, Wash., Lodge No. 1082 for many years. My mom, sister, and I all participated. Then, when it came time to apply for college, my grandpa was there to sponsor my application to become an Elks Legacy scholar. He not only helped me, he helped many young people in the community by being an involved member of his Lodge for so long.


When the athletes and their regional Elks leaders came onto the court, I could see the pride radiating from all of the Elks involved. These Elks weren’t even related to the athletes, but they were still proud. This type of mentorship and support was showed their contagiously selfless attitudes. Then, I watched the Hoop Shoot stars and immediately noticed the excitement in their eyes as they planned each shot. I saw the pride they had in what they were accomplishing—they knew they’d made it very far. When it was time to narrow the field, I couldn’t help but feel my heart break as I knew that every athlete was impressive and was deserving of the national title. After meeting athletes that did not win the contest, I could relate to their mixed feelings of excitement and disappointment. The maturity that these young people show is impressive, because many adults still struggle with these feelings and have a tough time feeling proud of their accomplishments when they aren’t the ultimate “winner.” So, what can we learn from these impressive young athletes?

1. There’s always next year! Whether it is a sporting event, scholarship opportunity or job opportunity, there is no reason we can’t try again for the same or a similar opportunity in the future. Perseverance is the key to success.

2. Sportsmanship is the name of the game. When I placed 5th in the Miss America 2015 pageant, I was still thrilled for the four women who finished above me—just as the young athletes at the Hoop Shoot congratulated those who received awards.

3. Sometimes we gain more by not winning. It’s true that winners learn from their mistakes and channel their determination to help them improve! Each time a competitor doesn’t finish at the top, he or she has the opportunity to evaluate ways to improve ultimately helping them learn valuable life skills. The trip to success isn’t always direct… there might be a few layovers along the way.


I am incredibly proud of all the athletes. Regardless of their placement in the contest, they are a success and they earned their way to the top! Congratulations!

Lauren Kuhn 2017
Doctor of Dental Medicine candidate, Harvard University
2015 Miss America 4th runner-up
2009 Elks Legacy scholar


In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.16 million to fund the ENF scholarship program, which provides college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important parts of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and each other. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit www.elks.org/enf/scholars. For more information about the Hoop Shoot, including videos and news from the court, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.

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