KTD speaker was 'Survivor' contestant

WORTHINGTON -- Surviving the jungles of Nicaragua and developing a southwest Minnesota community may not seem to have much in common, but for Holly Hoffman, a former contestant on "Survivor: Nicaragua" and this year's King Turkey Day featured spe...

WORTHINGTON - Surviving the jungles of Nicaragua and developing a southwest Minnesota community may not seem to have much in common, but for Holly Hoffman, a former contestant on “Survivor: Nicaragua” and this year’s King Turkey Day featured speaker, the connection couldn’t be clearer.

“My main message is about surviving, but it doesn’t take something like being on a reality show to overcome adversity in life,” she said. “When I look at the community of Worthington, I see a surviving community - a community that has committed to keeping (King Turkey Day) going and to keeping the community going. That is what my message is going to be about.”

Compared to Central American jungles, Worthington might not seem exotic, but that isn’t dampening Hoffman’s enthusiasm for participating in the King Turkey Day festivities.

“I’m very excited to come to Worthington,” she said. “I’ve never watched a turkey race in my life.”

While she may never have watched two turkeys scrambling to reach the finish line, as a resident of a 850-member South Dakota community, Hoffman is no stranger to small towns. She never let that hold her back, though, and before applying to be a contestant on “Survivor,” she started a swim program in her community to help her children develop their interest in swimming.


“I was a stay-at-home mom, married at a young age, and then I started a swim team for our children,” she said. “I did that for 17 years and helped my husband on our ranch.”

After her three children left for college, Hoffman started looking for a new challenge - and there are few challenges as difficult as “Survivor.”

Hoffman is quick to assure any naysayers that the contestants’ experiences are just as rough as they appear on TV. Hoffman’s 20-pound weight loss in 38 days is testament to the extreme conditions she was under.

“You have to survive 39 days to get to the end, and you’re in the middle of the jungle with nothing but the clothes on your back,” she said. “People think it’s fake and that they give you food, but they don’t. We had to find food, build shelter and sleep in the jungle.”

Five days after starting the game, Hoffman began having second thoughts and almost left the competition in Nicaragua early. After talking with co-competitor Jimmy Johnson, she decided to stay with the game and ultimately came in fourth place.

“I realized when you face a challenge, you need to go straight ahead and take that challenge head-on,” Hoffman said. “What I learned from this totally broadened my horizons. If I would have quit, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. It proved that quitting never pays.”

Today, as an inspirational and motivational speaker, Hoffman has talked about her experiences and the lessons she learned with numerous health care, educational and women’s organizations.

“I learned I could do it,” Hoffman said. “You just have to tell yourself you can do it and not let yourself be defeated before you start something.”


Using perseverance and determination to reach a goal is a belief that Hoffman also applies to communities.

“When new projects or new ideas come up in the community, we jump to conclusions, but by listening to everyone and taking everything into consideration - that’s what you need to do as a community,” she said.

Hoffman added that she is looking forward to visiting Worthington and meeting local residents.

“No one should be afraid to talk to me,” she said with a laugh. “I love to answer questions and meet people, and I’m really looking forward to coming.”

In addition to speaking at 1 p.m. Saturday, Hoffman will give a longer speech that is open to the public at 11 a.m. Friday at the Alternative Learning Center.

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