Welcome Chris Blanchard


The Grotto is pleased to welcome Christopher Edward Blanchard as Executive Director. Blanchard will oversee the day-to-day administration of the shrine, beginning Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.

Blanchard was raised in Virginia and graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Following a short period working for the juvenile court system, he joined the U.S. Marine Corp and served for over 26 years.  His assignments enabled him to travel broadly and included time in 49 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Morocco to Yemen.

Upon retirement from active duty, Blanchard served as the Chief of Staff of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, supervising a staff which provided facilities, programs and services to Marines, sailors, and their families.  Before relocating to the Pacific Northwest, he served as the President and CEO of Easter Seals Hawaii, offering services to individuals with disabilities or special needs.

Blanchard is a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas, Wash., and lives in Skamania County with his wife, Kelly, and their dog, Crash.

To download the press release, please click here: Blanchard to Lead The Grotto.

Getting to Know Chris Blanchard

What does The Grotto mean to you?

When I consider The Grotto, I reflect more on the formal name:  The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother.  The emphasis for me is on Sanctuary.  A place to go and get away from the crowds.  A place to walk or sit and to be thankful for all that I have been given.

And The Grotto reminds of my mother, who passed away in 2005.  Mom would ask my dad to bring her to Mass here from time-to-time.  I know that no one is more pleased by my joining The Grotto than my mother, and that pleases me.

What are some of the things you are looking forward to?

First, I look forward to learning more about The Grotto history. I want to know as much as I can; I want to learn every piece of the ground.

Most of all, I look forward to meeting the people who visit the Sanctuary, to learn where why they came here, and why they keep coming here.  I want to hear how we can enrich their experience when they visit, what we can do to make visits to the Sanctuary more meaningful.

It’s also great that I can slip out of the office and into the Chapel of Mary to attended Mass.

What do you hope to bring to The Grotto as its leader?

I hope to draw more people to The Grotto.  I want the National Sanctuary to be exactly that:  National.  I want people everywhere to visit our Sanctuary and let them experience the spiritual and emotional benefits of spending time, as I already noted, away from the crowd.

And I want to support the work of the staff and the countless, dedicated volunteers however I can.

How do you like living here?

When my wife and I decided where to go after my many years with the Marine Corps, we could have gone anywhere.  We chose to come to the Great Northwest. Having my dad in Vancouver influenced our decision to come to the Portland area. We are fortunate to live here.

In some ways our home is much like The Grotto, set the woods in Skamania County.  Strange as it might sound, I enjoy cutting wood, and getting it split and stacked.  I think the work that goes into it makes our evening fires all the more enjoyable.  There is nothing like sitting by the fire on a cold Northwest evening.  And when it snows in the forest, there is nothing more beautiful.