by MIKE CHAIKEN
The final decision is now in the hands of the judges for Miss Connecticut Jillian Duffy.
The Burlington woman participated in two nights of preliminary competitions for Miss America, which will determine who goes on to compete on the Thursday night live broadcast of the finals from Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena.
The first night of the preliminaries on Sunday, Dec. 15 saw Duffy, who had been Miss Wolcott before winning the state crown, singing before the judges in the talent category of the competition.
The second night of preliminaries found the Lewis S. Mills High School graduate being judged on her on-stage interview. She also was judged in a new category, a “Shark Tank”-style pitch to the judges about her social impact statement. Duffy’s chosen cause is “Jillian’s Journey: Pediatric Cancer Research.”
In her onstage question, Duffy, a cancer survivor, was queried about a question she was asked in a private interview with the judges. She was asked if there had ever been a time where, as a leader, she had to step back and be a follower.
“For me, going through a battle with cancer at 13 years old I felt like I was a leader and after battling cancer and beating it, I had to get back to advocating for myself,” said Duffy.
“After going through the chemotherapy treatment, I suffered from a learning disability and a memory disability,” said Duffy. “I had a stroke through treatment, which makes it a little bit harder for me to learn… (I had to) fall back to let others help me so I can achieve my goals.”
In her pitch to judges about Jillian’s Journey, Duffy said, “One out of five children will lose their battle (with cancer)… (M)y proudest title is pediatric cancer survivor… .Jillian’s Journey commits patient and survivors to a purpose, a celebration of life, positivity and perseverance. These are the first things to shatter with a diagnosis of cancer.”
With Jillian’s Journey, Duffy said she will work patients. But she also will share her story with national organizations involved with cancer research but sharing her story and helping them raise money.
“Let me leave you with this thought tonight,” said Duffy, “The federal government spends the same amount of money towards pediatric cancer research in one year as Americans spend on three cups of Starbucks coffee per week.
“If each of us here tonight gave up our three cups of coffee for one week, we can raise $75,000 for cancer research,” said Duffy. “That’s enough money to put two patients through treatment… Would you give up your cup of coffee to save two lives?”
The Miss America finals will be aired live from the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.