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Meet the 2024 Mother of the Year® award recipients—women from diverse backgrounds and experiences across the nation recognized for their work, resilience and commitment to family and community. These mothers were chosen through a national nomination and selection process led by American Mothers, which has had the honor of searching for and selecting the Mother of the Year® in every state, district and territory in the country since 1935.

These honored mothers will represent their respective home states at the American Mothers National Convention this April 25-27 in Omaha, Nebraska. At this convention, one state Mother of the Year® will be selected as an ambassador for American Mothers and serve as the 2024 National Mother of the Year®.

Join us in congratulating each of these amazing mothers!

2024 National Mother of the Year®

Name

State

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To view a portfolio, select a mother’s name or scroll down the page.

Ashley Wilson, Alabama
Ivelisse Bonilla-Torrado, Arizona
Alicia Robinson, Arkansas
Angelina Barrera, California
Magan Grigg, Colorado
Pamela LeBlond, Connecticut
Patricia Cade, District of Columbia
Jennifer Parsons, Delaware
Dr. Cheri Jrolf, Florida
Angela Wilkes, Georgia
Farrell Lindley-Kessler, Idaho
Holli Crawford, Illinois
Rachael Stainko, Indiana
Kayla Weis, Iowa
Kayla Schadegg, Kansas

Janie Spurlock, Kentucky
Sherry Sullivan, Maine
Charlene Day, Maryland
Jenessa Fillipi, Minnesota
Bridgit Patterson, Missouri
Tiffany Geer, Montana
Angie Stenger, Nebraska
Laura Weiss, Nevada
Leanna Lorden, New Hampshire
Rachelle Molyneaux, New Jersey
Dena Fahlquist, New Mexico
Charifa Smith, New York
Christina Denton, North Carolina
Meg Morley, North Dakota

Jalyn Cantrell, Ohio
Delilah Joiner Martin, Oklahoma
Chelsea Roberts, Oregon
Lorena Padro-Cortes, Puerto Rico
Marie Parente, Rhode Island
Shannon Morgan, South Carolina
Brittany Orr, South Dakota
Rainer Lowman, Tennessee
Raquelle Akavan, Texas
Monica Godfrey, Utah
Carmen Menard, Vermont
Marlene Peterson, Virginia
Heather Kucharski, Wisconsin
Crystal Young, Wyoming

For general media inquiries or to set up an interview with a Mother of the Year®, email news@americanmothers.org. Nominations for Mother of the Year® are accepted annually beginning Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday in May) until September 15.

Ashley Wilson, 2024 Alabama Mother of the Year.

Ashley Wilson

Alabama

Ashley Wilson is the Executive Director and Founder of Curt’s Closet, a non-profit dedicated to providing free clothing, shoes and other necessities to children. Ashley founded Curt’s Closet to honor her late son, Curt, who was tragically killed by a drunk driver. Ashley believes that providing children in need with clean, in-style clothing is a great start to provide the confidence they need to succeed in life. Ashley is a graduate of Cullman High School and was recently awarded the Cullman City Schools Foundation Alumni Award for Distinguished Service and was named among the 2023 Women Who Shape the State in Alabama. In addition to her work at Curt’s Closet, Ashley is devoted to service to the Cullman community. She serves on several boards including the Cullman County Head Start Policy Board, the Voluntary Organizations in Active Disasters (VOAD) and Disabled Outdoorsmen USA of Alabama.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting three boys as a single mother has been rewarding yet demanding experience. I believe you must recognize and celebrate each child’s unique strengths, interests, and personality. Each one of my sons carried their own style of each. You must encourage them to explore their passions and develop their own sense of self. Raising three boys, not having a male role model within the home, I wanted to demonstrate the qualities and values I wanted my boys to embody. As a parent, you must lead by example in areas such as kindness, respect, and integrity. Life becomes busy and hard, but your children should always know they are your priority. Giving a child security at home and showing you love and speaking it daily. I child can never have too much security or love. I believe as a parent we must show support in the child’s interests, hobbies, passions. Letting them choose their own and truly supporting them with your child. This helps them develop confidence skills and a sense of accomplishment. There is no one- size-fits-all approach to parenthood. Trust your instincts. Never hesitate to seek support when needed from trusted friends, family, or professional. It truly takes a community to raise a child.

Motherhood and Community

  1. Serving on the Advisory Board for Kids and Kin in Cullman has been very rewarding. Having the opportunity to better the community of families that are accepting the unselfish task of raising a family member’s child. Helping to put programs within the community to not only financially help these families but to also educate them to provide for the unexpected new member of the home, along with classes for kinships to learn of resources in our area.
  2. Volunteering on the Policy Board for Cullman City Head Start has been a blessing. I have had opportunities to meet with other parents in the community. Listening to their concerns and suggestions. Being able to improve our school system. Head Start is very important, it is the beginning of the children’s future. Ensuring the best teachers and faculty are in place and giving the most outstanding education to the children.
  3. I am a proud member of 2023 Leadership Cullman. Being able to serve in this group gives me opportunities to learn about services, family-owned businesses, organizations, along with so much more within our community. I will be able to take this knowledge to my workspace, home, and further out in the community.
Ivelissa Bonilla, 2024 Arizona Mother of the Year.

Ivelisse Bonilla-Torrado

Arizona

Ivelisse Bonilla-Torrado started working in employment matters at McConnell Valdes in Puerto Rico. She relocated to serve as Deputy General Counsel for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington, D.C. While in Washington, she pursued an additional advanced law degree at George Washington University. Moving to Tucson with her husband, she joined Raven, Awerkamp & Clancy, P.C. law firm.  A partner, she works for Awerkamp, Bonilla and Giles, PLC.  A mother of 3, twins plus one, Ivelisse represents clients, many of which are low income, in cases, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment; discrimination and other protected groups; wrongful termination; and other matters. She is the Past Chair of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of Arizona and a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.  She is the dedicated wife of Dino Alfaro, and the happy mother of Caroline,  Dino, and Camila.

Parenting Philosophy

Being a Mother is the toughest job I have ever had and the most wonderful and rewarding. My parenting philosophy is to embrace my kids the way they are. I believe my three amazing children came to this world with a purpose and my job is to accept them the way they were born, with their strengths and weaknesses. My purpose is to love them unconditionally and show them right from wrong. My role is to give them the tools they need to thrive and shine.

I also believe I need to teach by example. It is what they see not what we tell them. I feel I am a better mother because I work. They have always seen a mother that enjoys serving others and the community. However, they also know they are my priority and that I will always be there for them. I always put them to bed and enjoy listening to their stories and ideas. All my three kids are different and have different needs. They have different strengths and abilities, but they are all loving, caring, and respect authority. I always remind them to be kind to others and tell the truth. I also tell them I am extremely lucky because God chose me to bring them to this world. Lucky me!

Motherhood and Community

School District Foundation Board: I am a member of the Catalina School District Foundation Board. The Foundation raises funds to improve public school educational opportunities for all K-12 students in the Catalina Foothills School District. Quality teachers lead to excellent education. Serving the Board has a positive impact in education, our teachers and my family. My children can see that I care about their school and their education. They feel proud that I am working to improve the quality of their education and care about it. It gives me great pleasure to serve my community and raise funds to attract and retain the best teachers for our District. Public education is essential so every child can get excellent education regardless of their background and family’s income.

Exercise: I play tennis with my kids. They take classes every week and they see me playing tennis. We also enjoy playing together. Exercising is extremely important and taking the time to exercise with my children not only is good for our health but the kids’ self-esteem. I love seeing them improve their skills and spending time with them.

Church: My husband and I married in 2004. I suffered from infertility for seven years. It was one of the most difficult times in my life. Besides joining a mind-body infertility support group, going to Church truly helped me not to lose faith. Once we had our twins, and later one our youngest girl, we went with them. I feel it has had an extremely positive impact on me and my family. Although we do not make it to Church every Sunday, going to Church as a family is good for our soul and our family. It gives us the opportunity to remember our blessings and practice gratitude.   It also allows our family to be part of the Church community.

Alicia Robinson, 2024 Arkansas Mother of the Year.

Alicia Robinson

Arkansas

Alicia Robinson was born and raised in Arkansas. She lives with the love of her life, Ben, who she shares two children with, Harlee and Colt. Aside from being a wife and mother, Alicia is an educator in the town she grew up in. She teaches 7th grade Literacy and is a Middle School Dance Coach. She has a heart for her students and uses her profession to encourage her students to use each day as a fresh start. Along with her teaching career Alicia is a competitive dance coach at a local studio. Alicia is an outdoor enthusiast who loves exploring the beautiful state she calls home.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy consists of letting my children be their own person with guidance and support. I am their biggest cheerleader but also their biggest critic. I want my children to be positive, active members of the community who people can count on to be honest and kind. I am an active listener when problems arise and we talk about ways the problem can be solved. Sometimes they take my advice, sometimes they don’t but that, in my opinion, is them growing up and making choices. My children know that every action has a consequence, good or bad, we celebrate the good and figure out how to resolve the bad. As a mom, I wouldn’t consider this a philosophy, just me trying to raise good humans.

Motherhood and Community

One activity that I am involved with that has impacted my family, more specifically my daughter is the local theatre department. I started working with the department 3 years ago doing choreography for their school district productions. This program has given me and my daughter something to connect with, if you are raising a teenager, you know these moments are few and far between. I have watched my daughter and other students become comfortable in their own skin, gain confidence on and off the stage and be proud of the work they accomplish. I will forever be grateful for this department and the skills it has given my daughter and the tremendous impact it and the students have had on my life.

Angelina Barrera, 2024 California Mother of the Year.

Angelina Barrera

California

Angelina Barrera was born in Chula Vista, California. She has worked in higher education for fourteen years as a paraprofessional in the academic affairs and student services division at a local community college in California. Currently, she serves the diverse community of English language learners (ESL). Most of these students are immigrants who are adapting to a new country, new culture and education system. She is a passionate leader who enjoys helping students to achieve their goals, but especially to help them break the many barriers they may encounter when attending a school in the United States. She was selected as one of the three finalists as a “Pioneer in Education” in the San Diego Magazine, that will feature her in their annual Celebrating Women awards. She is a dedicated young educator and a pioneer as the ESL Student Advocate, giving them a voice and making them feel included.

Parenting Philosophy

Being a mother is a learning process. There are no manuals or specialized training that a woman can take before deciding to become a mother. I consider myself to be an authoritative mother because I am supportive and nurturing but at the same time I like to set firm rules. I like that my kids have their own perspective and I respect it but I also like to reflect upon their viewpoints. My goal as a mother is to create a strong bond with my children so that they feel the connection and the importance of positive relationships in life. During their first five years, my children were incorporated into Montessori philosophy, where they learned to be self-motivated, respectful of their environment and developed a sense of creativity and curiosity for things in the world. Additionally, I am raising my kids in a bilingual and bicultural setting so that they have better opportunities in life and value the cultural aspects of society in general. The reality is that as a mother I have learned to be flexible and adapt to my children’s needs, there is no perfect parenting style, but the one that works best for you.

Motherhood and Community

Being a working mother: Being a working mother has helped me to become a better person and mother. I have learned to enjoy quality time with my family knowing that my time is limited and it has to be organized into different segments of my life as a professional and a mother. Being a working mother has helped me develop leadership skills that have shaped the person, mother and professional I am today. English language learners advocate: Working in higher education as an ESL student advocate has made me realize that many immigrant mothers face challenges with different aspects of their life, from adapting to a new country to learning how to navigate a new system in general. An immigrant mother’s mission is to help their children feel they belong in this new society and prepare them for an optimal child adaptation process, and this has had a positive impact in my life because I have realized that sometimes we do take things for granted. I feel blessed to have met so many wonderful mothers who are role models to their children and who have broken many barriers as women, mothers and immigrants.

Magan Grigg, 2024 Colorado Mother of the Year.

Magan Grigg

Colorado

Magan is a 33-year-old mother of 3 originally from Roanoke, VA. She has lived in Colorado since 2018  when her husband matched into a residency program in Pueblo, Colorado. She lived in Pueblo for nearly 5 years, but recently moved to the Colorado Springs area in April 2023. Magan went to college in Mars Hill, North Carolina receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 2011 and went on to Lincoln Memorial University and received a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant studies in 2014. She has been practicing as a PA since 2014 in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Colorado throughout her career. Magan currently works at Colorado Springs Utilities as an Occupational Medicine PA treating their employees for work-related injuries, illnesses and monitor work-related medical surveillance. She has a 6-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter, and 18-month-old son who keep her life busy yet fulfilled every day.

Parenting Philosophy

As I would imagine with most women who have become mothers, I have had to adapt to the role of parent more than I thought possible. Currently, I have 3 young children. Parenting one child is different than two, and that is different than three. One condition I have not changed is the love I try to exude to my children every single moment possible so that they know I still, and always will, love them. As a child of a family that only knows how to discipline by yelling, attitude, or turning away I have tried my hardest to help my kids understand the why for their punishments during times of poor behavior. I always give them options based on their behavior because I want my children to understand that their choices and behaviors have rewards or consequences. I have often struggled with my immediate learned response of yelling to get a desired behavior, but after much more fight than it is worth, I had to reflect on the ‘why’ this was my response, I made a conscious effort to change my behavior. While I am stern and direct with my children, I always explain how and why their behaviors are impacting everyone’s life. I teach my children that everyone is capable and deserves love; and they could be the only person in someone’s life to offer love or kindness. In our family we try to show kindness in all aspects, and being kind is held in highest regard.

Motherhood and Community

Volunteering and giving back are very important to me. I regularly volunteer at my church in the nursery. I value furthering our young children’s relationship with God and fostering a happy, healthy, and loving environment. During COVID I looked for opportunities to serve my community as well. I am extremely blessed to have a career that I am innately able to help others. In April 2020 I volunteered to be a part of the rapid response in New York City that supplied medical care to field hospitals placed in the Bronx and Brooklyn, NY. This was a life-changing experience for me, and I was deeply moved by the work PA’s set forth during this unprecedented time. Upon my return to Colorado in May of 2020 I was able to volunteer with International Medical Relief (IMR) in Denver, Colorado to aid the homeless population of Denver placed in temporary housing. While there, I met a young woman who had been sexually assaulted resulting in pregnancy and together we navigated the early weeks of her pregnancy. I kept in touch with this young woman and joyfully donated baby items and helped see her get on her feet with her own apartment and new life with her young daughter. This was the most rewarding part of my volunteer work to date. I am excited to be a part of a regular mission trip with my PA school alma mater LMU-DCOM. We usually do mission work in Pachacutec, Peru and I have been in 2016, 2018, and Guatemala in April 2023 with IMR again. During these mission trips I mentor PA students and I am honored to foster mentorship with these students long after the trip completion. Being part of the PA profession has allowed for these experiences which support growth for individuals and the community. IMR has a Colorado Mission beginning in December 2023 which aids in the Venezuelan refugees housed within the city of Denver. I am most looking forward to making connections with individuals, families, and mothers and fostering empowerment of their health and well-being.

Pamela LeBlond, 2024 Connecticut Mother of the Year.

Pamela LeBlond

Connecticut

Pam was born in 1980 in Wolcott, CT. She was raised by her parents alongside her 2 younger brothers. She attended local schools and participated in many sports and activities throughout her childhood. She graduated from Wolcott High School in 1998. After school she joined the workforce and started her insurance career doing data entry and receptionist work. Within 2 years she was promoted and became a licensed Property & Casualty customer service representative. She moved on after 5 years to become an underwriter for Chubb Insurance where she has spent the last 20 years of her career and is presently a Senior Underwriter. Pam is married to her husband Ryan and they reside in her hometown of Wolcott where they have raised their 2 daughters, Lyrik and Lydia. Pam is an active member of the community and participates in many local school and town committees and events.

Parenting Philosophy

I feel I have a unique parenting style, melding multiple philosophies to meet our family’s needs. I mostly consider myself an authoritative parent, whereas I have high expectations for my daughters, but encourage them no matter how they are doing. They have been raised to follow the rules and know that their actions have consequences, both positive and negative. They were given boundaries and taught that those boundaries were to be adhered to and respected. Then there are times where I would also say I am somewhat of a free-range parent. Teaching my girls to learn by doing and to explore and try new things. Reminiscent of the era I grew up in, the 80’s and 90’s. Teaching them to go out, get dirty, and use your imagination. At times my parenting style is more of a reflective approach, encouraging them to deal with their emotions and be able to manage how they are feeling without me telling them how to feel. But most importantly, I make sure they always know that they have my unconditional love and support. That no matter what they do or where they go in life I will be right there, in the front row, being their biggest fan. There is never a day where “I love you” is not said multiple times to one another. I strive daily to make sure my girls know that I am always in their corner.

Motherhood and Community

At this time in mine and my family’s life my major focuses are with our local youth football and cheer organization and helping out in the school systems. I am currently the League Fundraising Coordinator for the Wolcott Youth Football and Cheer Association. I have held this position for the last 4 years and work to set up fundraising events to benefit our athletes and the organization as a whole. This position keeps me highly involved in many areas of the community as I work closely with local businesses, schools, parents and the athletes. This has helped me to foster strong relationships within the community whereas local businesses are always willing to help our organization and vice versa. In addition to being on the board I am highly involved in my youngest child’s cheer teams. Acting as the Team Mom for both and assisting all the coaches in whatever they may need. I also am an Executive Board Member of our middle school’s PTO. I co-chair fundraising efforts for the students and the school. I organize fundraisers that help the students earn money to alleviate some of the expenses associated with their largest class trip, their 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. I also work to help raise funds that go back into the PTO to be able to provide events such as Teacher Appreciation Luncheons, Field Day activities, and bringing in ice cream or food trucks for the students for different events. Lastly, I volunteer to help with anything at my older daughters’ school when needed. Such as getting sponsor donations for their spring play, assisting with ticket sales and organizing anything they needed. All my work in the schools over the years has helped me make and maintain wonderful relationships with all members of our local school community.

Jennifer Parsons, 2024 Delaware Mother of the Year.

Jennifer Parsons

Delaware

Jennifer Marie Parsons is a Consultant working with an organization to address complex social concerns to create a healthier community. She serves her community as a board member for the Sussex County Health Coalition, Co-Chair of the Economic Mobility Task Force. She is an active committee member of Behavioral Health Task Group, Drug Free Committee, Health Committee, Sussex Early Childhood, Youth Engagement, Sussex Pride, and Kent and Sussex Strong Community Initiatives. Parsons is also involved with Sussex Communities of Hope, Sussex Housing Group, Housing Alliance of Delaware Continuum of Care, Delaware Goes Purple, Healthy Delaware and the Delaware Health Literacy Council. Parsons leads with a passionate heart focusing on the underserved, marginalized, multilingual communities to ensure everyone has a seat and a voice at the table. She is a proud resident of Sussex County. Married to the love of her life for 24 years, they have two adult sons and have been blessed with three grandsons.

Parenting Philosophy

I believe being a parent is the greatest gift one can be blessed with. My philosophy is the following. Never give up on your children. Ever. No matter what the decisions or circumstances that may arise, as a parent you should always be their soft place to land. Providing support in whatever manner you are able too. Secondly, always be kind and listen. Be kind and listen to your children. Even at an early age, they have their own opinions, thoughts, and dreams. Be sure to know that you are their cheer leader. My boys have taught me so many things and opened my world to such amazing things that I may have otherwise missed. Lastly, I would say to Keep the faith. Faith is the only thing you have when you do not have the answers. I am proud to be a mother and now a grandmother. However, it has not come without heartache, tears, adversity, and most importantly, unconditional love. As a parent my children are my greatest accomplishment.

Motherhood and Community

Being a single mother in the early years has provided an insight when working withing the community. Having a son who is part of the LGBTQ+ community has afforded me the knowledge and passion to serve this marginalized community. Lastly, a dedicated husband that has provided 24 years of public service has impacted our lives forever more. Shedding light on how blessed our family really is. Although they are not activities, I believe they have been and continue to be life lessons that have impacted our family for the better.

Patricia Cade, 2024 District of Columbia Mother of the Year.

Patricia Cade

District of Columbia

Patricia Cade was born and raised in Washington, DC; she retired from the Department of the Army and District Government and currently is a Program & Staffing Coordinator with the Community Support System, LLC . Patricia learned to provide support to individuals beginning with a brother at the age of 10-years-old. She is a mother of three; Love & John, Jr. both deceased and has one surviving daughter, Anastasia and one granddaughter, Jasma. Patricia supports individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and is an avid member of the DC Metropolitan Police Department-Reserve Corps-Citizen Volunteer credited with 24 years of service. Her goal is to continue to support individuals with disabilities and to assist those in need to seek assistance from the DC Department on Disability Services and partnerships.

Parenting Philosophy

As a young working single mother to two kids in daycare was a challenge for me, so I would prepare my day with getting myself ready and then focus on the kids, while I needed to assure their happiness by planning my day ahead at least an hour before I would awaken them to get ready for the school day. My philosophical ways consisted of teaching & educating a child with knowledge and character to prepare them for today’s world. I provided appreciation and admiration to build their self-esteem while at the same time teaching them moral values such as honesty and respect early in life. Kids must learn to respect one another and show they care for each other to include being able to understand things while being able to appreciate one another and offer a helping hand when needed. To assist me in my philosophical way of raising kids, I would recognize their potential to succeed in what they valued, such as sports and other extracurricular activities; encourage kids to show kindness and concern for others by doing things together and sharing feelings of another person; have the courage to stand-up and not be afraid (bullying) of someone and speak out against injustice. My overall philosophical style consisted of communication to the extent of letting go anger, working together with a willingness to compromise and treat people with fairness, self-control and ultimately being grateful for the blessings good or bad bestowed upon us.

Motherhood and Community

The activities and my involvements that have impacted my life and made a positive impact in my family and community are: The DC Metropolitan Police – Supporting law enforcement began while working within the Pentagon. As Chief it was a part of my responsibility to ensure my staff and customers worked together to prevent crime, fraud and theft. The interaction with law enforcement continued with the jurisdictions that I lived in, hosting and participating in crime prevention efforts. Interacting with law enforcement helps to assure orderly, safe and supportive communities. DC Department on Disability Services (DDS) – provide support and guidance to ensure individuals with developmental and intellectual disability are made aware to the public and that they should not be excluded from participating in the community. The agency enables persons with disabilities to be integrated in the community and focus on their health and well-being. DDS showed me how to assure my brother has a good quality of life which can be applied to all who need assistance due to a disability. Community Support System (CSS) provides support to families who need assistance with their family member(s) that has an intellectual and/or developmental disability. It is with this company that I can plan on my future as I progress in age. CSS employs Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and I have been privileged to further acquire this skill and apply to my court appointed responsibility.

Cheri Jrolf, 2024 Florida Mother of the Year.

Dr. Cheri Jrolf

Florida

Dr. Cheri Jrolf is a board-certified physician assistant with over 26 years of clinical experience in general and specialty medicine. She then completed her Doctorate of Medical Science at A.T. Still University, focusing on education. She is interested in preventative medicine and obesity management and has created several patient education programs. She is the mother of four boys, who keep her active as they are involved in football and baseball and participate in local community service. She is passionate about youth sports and has volunteered for many years for numerous youth athletic programs. Dr. Jrolf is a Medical Director and volunteers her time at the Special Olympics. She has also helped at a local thrift store and food bank serving Hillsborough County. Dr. Jrolf participated in a medical mission to the Dominican Republic with One World Surgery and Village Medical, where they served the local community to help close the gap in medical care.

Parenting Philosophy

As a mother of four boys deeply involved in the medical field and the community, my parenting philosophy revolves around balance, empathy, and engagement. I believe in fostering an environment that encourages individual growth and collective responsibility. In my household, balance is paramount. With four active boys, it’s crucial to find equilibrium between academics, sports, and leisure. I encourage open communication to understand their interests and concerns, allowing us to tailor their schedules accordingly. Empathy is another cornerstone. Working in the medical field has reinforced the importance of compassion. I teach my boys to respect and empathize with others, understanding that each person’s journey is unique. Volunteering for the Special Olympics and local food bank exemplifies this value, showing them the significance of giving back and supporting those less fortunate. Engagement within our community enriches our lives. Through involvement in the Special Olympics, my boys learn the value of inclusivity, celebrating diversity, and embracing challenges with grace. Volunteering at the food bank instills gratitude and humility, highlighting the impact of small acts of kindness. I emphasize education as a lifelong pursuit. My medical background drives the importance of knowledge, but I also stress emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and adaptability. These skills empower my boys to navigate life’s complexities with confidence. Ultimately, my philosophy centers on nurturing well-rounded individuals who value kindness, empathy, and hard work. By balancing personal growth, empathy for others, and community engagement, I aim to raise my boys to be compassionate, responsible, and socially conscious members of society.

Motherhood and Community

Over the past years, I have actively engaged in a diverse range of activities that have left a positive imprint on my life, family, and community. As a member of the Youth Athletics Board of Directors since 2012, I have contributed to fostering youth development through sports, instilling discipline, teamwork, and leadership skills. This engagement not only impacted my personal growth but also positively influenced the lives of countless young athletes and their families. My contributions extended into the academic realm as well. Since 2020, I have been actively involved in the University of Nebraska PA Program as a bio reader for admission applications. By evaluating prospective students’ bios, I have played a role in shaping the next generation of medical professionals, reflecting positively on my family’s support for educational endeavors. My dedication to inclusivity and support for diverse groups was highlighted through my participation in Special Olympics from 2022. This involvement not only enriched my own perspective but also had a profound impact on my family, fostering compassion and empathy. Global outreach became a part of my journey too. Through participation in the Village Medical/One World Surgery Dominican Republic Medical Mission in July 2022, I directly contributed to enhancing healthcare access in underserved communities. This experience left a lasting impression on my family, emphasizing the importance of global citizenship. Lastly, my contribution to the Military Awareness Project at LMU in May 2023 highlighted the importance of honoring service members. This endeavor instilled a sense of patriotism in my family and peers, fostering a greater appreciation for those who serve. In summary, my involvement in diverse activities spanning sports, health, education, global outreach, and community service has not only impacted my personal growth but has also positively influenced my family’s values and our community’s well-being. Through my actions, I have strived to exemplify the significance of engagement, empathy, and dedication to meaningful causes.

Angela Wilkes, 2024 Georgia Mother of the Year.

Angela Wilkes

Georgia

Angela Wilkes is a dynamic leader, and collaborator, dedicated to her faith, family, friends, and community. She has endured many challenges, and yet she still rises to excellence in all she embarks on. As a mother of a blended family consisting of five bonus children, one biological child and 13 grandchildren, she has dedicated herself to motivating, educating, and advising her adult children and grandchildren. She is a financial supporter for many organizations that support the youth, homeless and food insecure. Angela is passionate about community, she is a founding member of the Parent Association for Diamond in the Rough Youth Mentoring Program, A board member for Zaria’s Song. Her other volunteer efforts include former Outreach Liaison for Extraordinary Church, Children’s church volunteer at Church in the Now. She has been a member of Mocha Moms in Dekalb County as well as owned a business teaching young children Spanish.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is a combination of how I was raised as well as my personal belief in God’s word about training up a child in the way they should go (meaning not forcing them to be what you desire), but providing them exposure to various sports, arts, travels, foods then guiding and supporting their natural gifts and talents. Teaching them to be self-sufficient and their authentic selves. To never forget to give back to the community, house rules, chores, and discipline when needed. These principles are my guide on how to parent, so your children are a solution to society’s problems not a burden. I use real life examples as teachable moments. From my parents I learned eating and serving etiquette, how to clean, how to shop for food, how to write checks and pay bills at an early age. We travelled locally, visited museums participated in community programs such as P.A.L, Upward Bound, etc. I expanded the experience by enrolling my daughter in Mommy & me classes, gymnastics, dance, soccer, and color guard throughout her K-12 years. As she reached high school, we did college tours so she could choose between vocational school, traditional college, or the military that it was up to her in accordance with the lifestyle she desired. She had her first savings account at age seven when she could write her name in cursive and then a checking account at age 15 and driver’s license at 16 while building her communication skills and trust.

Motherhood and Community

  1. Diamond in the Rough Youth Mentoring Program. I have been a part of this program for approximately nine years. From the first day when they brought in the Priceless princess to crown the little girls I was in awe and in agreement with the mission and vision of the program for girls. I am a founding member of the Parent Association; I support the organization financially and volunteer my time even though my daughter has graduated. It was a tremendous help to me and my family in navigating the transitions from elementary to middle school and the teenage years. The monthly seminars on technology, sex trafficking, domestic violence in dating, college planning and budgeting has had a huge impact on us successfully raising our daughter and her ability to keep her self-esteem high.
  2. Volunteering – I believe that “to whom much is given much is required” so it is with a grateful heart that me and family volunteer at the Atlanta Community Food Bank every year. We sort, pack anything from can goods to produce. We also do the AT&T Believe volunteer campaigns which can be putting together school supplies, writing words of encouragement to students, etc. volunteering builds teamwork in my family and helps us bond over a common cause and it helps everyone appreciate what they have and have accomplished.
  3. My career has been an important part of my life. I had aspirations of being in the C suite; however, having a miracle child later in life was a curve ball, but a good one. So, as I transitioned from the IT track an Instructional Designer, I realized that I wasn’t stuck and proceeded to do my best and I am proud to say that I have been promoted and made lateral moves that have benefited my family and me financially and self-esteem wise for all of us. My family loves to brag that I am in AT&T Management which approached in stores for signing up for service. I am fulfilled knowing that when I do my job well it positively impacts the company’s bottom line.
Farrell Lindley-Kessler, 2024 Idaho Mother of the Year.

Farrell Lindley-Kessler

Idaho

Farrell Lindley-Kessler, MOT, OTR/L, is a nationally board certified and licensed occupational therapist with over 20 years of practical experience. Farrell earned a master’s degree of occupational therapy from Pacific University and advanced certifications focused on sensory integration from USC. Farrell has extensive experience working in the NICU and with children of all ages with various mental and physical diagnoses. Farrell started her own therapy business to help focus on treating children in underserved areas across rural areas of Idaho and Oregon. Farrell has developed and provided educational trainings across Idaho and nationally. She is a past president for the Idaho Occupational Therapy Association and currently is the Chair of Idaho Occupational Therapy Licensure Board. Farrell works with a variety of nonprofit  organizations and is an Idaho Diaper Bank board member. She is a mother of two active school-aged boys and enjoys skiing, tennis, and outdoor activities with her family.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting is the most rewarding and challenging role a mother can possess. Watching our children learn and grow provides us with amplifying our own learning, perspective taking, and empathy. The role of parenting provides us with so many aspects to support, educate, encourage, and instill values in our children. The Golden Rule is one of the most valuable tools to teach our children. Supporting our children through teaching them kindness, decision making, learning through mistakes, and being they’re for them in their successes and failures is one of the greatest ways we can encourage our children to become striving adults and future role models. Honesty, support, encouragement, as well as teaching children respect, and graciousness towards themselves and others are valuable lessons we can give to our children. Teaching them through our own failures and success, as well as guiding them to make positive and healthy choices can empower our children and children for future generations.

Motherhood and Community

I have learned many valuable lessons through working with children and adults throughout our community. The impact one can make with the simplest of gestures has astounded me. I have learned perspective taking, random acts of kindness, and even a less is more philosophy from many of the people I have met over the years. In working with the Idaho Diaper Bank, the stories that people share of their hardships and success, and even the thankfulness they express when receiving something as simple as diapers has been impactful. My children have learned and expressed a willingness to support and help others. The other day, my son saw a child sitting by himself at a student/parent banquet, and I was so impressed and honored that he was the one who went up to that child and asked them to sit at the table with all the other kids. I am not sure if he would have done this without learning and being impacted through the years with exposure to the Idaho Diaper Bank and realizing the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way. When I volunteered my time and developed a community teen social skills group with children diagnosed with ASD, I learned many lessons and the value of perspective taking. Now, when I am parenting my own children, I incorporate perspective taking into our discussions. Recently, after working with a 3-year-old child in a rural community, who needed foster care placement, I realized that my family and I could provide respite services to these parents in need of a break. I spoke with my family, and without hesitation, both kids and my husband were on board and willing to step in and help, no questions asked. I am so grateful for all the children and families I have met over the years. These experiences have been inspirational and helped me grow as an individual.

Holli Crawford, 2024 Illinois Mother of the Year.

Holli Crawford

Illinois

Holli is an Air Force veteran who currently works a full-time job with for the State of Illinois. She has 3 kids who are all involved in sports. She also coaches outdoor and indoor soccer for her kids’ teams, as well as volunteers at their church for different events. In her down time, you can find her doing hair since she also has her cosmetology license.

Parenting Philosophy

No kid asked to be here, nor the life they were dealt, they deserve the best life possible to give them the best chance at life.

Motherhood and Community

First activity would be coaching soccer, I have coached soccer for all three of my kids at one time or another. Offering to coach has allowed the kids from our small school stay on a team together and has allowed me to create fun long lasting relationships with all the kids I have coached. I love seeing the smaller kids outside of soccer, their reaction when they see me off the field is priceless. Second would have to be helping at our church, I have assisted with VBS, Awana, Church camp and the Christmas programs. Doing this helps teach my kids a sense of contributing to their community as well as building relationships with other within our church.

Rachael Stainko, 2024 Indiana Mother of the Year.

Rachael Stainko

Indiana

Rachael Stainko resides in Lafayette, Indiana with her husband of five years. As a graduate of Purdue University, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Graduate Certificate in Public Health. After an extensive career as an Oncology Patient Navigator, she now has the greatest job raising their son and daughter. Rachael is a two-time cesarean mother with experience in a traumatic childbirth and short-term NICU stay. Through her journey as a mom, Rachael felt there was an unmet need for women, which led her to creating Strong as a Mother. Through Strong as a Mother, Rachael promotes maternal equity and builds community across social media platforms for women and their families, which includes hosting a Live Series called #MotherhoodMonday. In addition to being a community activist, Rachael and her family can be found running 5Ks, traveling, caring for their zoo of animals, and cheering on the Purdue Boilermakers.

Parenting Philosophy

My husband and I believe in offering love and comfort as parents as well as encouraging freedom and instilling a respect for authority in our children. As believers, we are committed to raising our children in a Christ-centered home. We lead by example. We are not perfect and we make mistakes. We want our children to see that, but more importantly to see how we address our flaws. We set the example by apologizing in front of our children and asking for forgiveness so they too will learn, it is okay to make mistakes and to seek forgiveness when we do. We believe in giving our children responsibilities and encouraging them in building their decision-making skills. We work together to help clean up when we are done with playtime and to clean up from family dinner. We also implement bedtime tasks and offer our children options like picking their school snack or what to wear to school. As a stay-at-home mom, I also encourage freedom and independent play through STEAM learning curriculum I implement at home. Above all, we believe in quality time together as a family. We are raising the next generation of servant leaders and believe in serving our community, together as a family.

Motherhood and Community

I volunteer with my local Dress for Success (DFS) chapter where I have the opportunity to serve women in our area as they embark on a new journey in their own lives. In addition to doing various inventory projects, I assist with dressing clients who visit the boutique. Seeing their faces light up and the joy they have when they walk away feeling like a new woman fills my heart. It is empowering to be part of an organization that is bringing invaluable resources to women in our community during a critical time in their lives. I also serve on the leadership team with the Purdue University Women’s Network (PWN). In 2023 I was selected to be one of the speakers for the Annual Women’s Conference where I presented on turning your setback into a comeback. In my presentation, the women and I walked through a self-discovery exercise together where we let go of past offenses and embraced our inner power to overcome life’s obstacles. It was a powerful and moving experience for all in the room, myself included. Additionally, I organize PWN Greater Lafayette Chapter events for alumnae to further their professional and social growth as well service events in our local community. In May of 2023 I created Strong as a Mother to promote maternal equity and the journey of motherhood. Through Strong as a Mother, I host an ongoing Instagram Live series called #MotherhoodMonday where I invite guests to share their stories, expertise and encouragement for other mothers or expecting moms. It has been through my Instagram Live series I have been able to build a community for women and friends/family members covering all aspects of motherhood. Being philanthropically engaged is important for me so that I do not lose who I am. Serving not only humbles me, but also helps me discover my purpose other than myself. This enables me to be a stronger mother for my family as well as it allows me to lead by example for my children as I strive to raise the next generation of servant leaders.

Kayla Weis, 2024 Iowa Mother of the Year.

Kayla Weis

Iowa

At eight weeks pregnant with her third child, Kayla Weis was diagnosed with aggressive stage 2 breast cancer at the age of thirty-four. During the following year of simultaneous cancer treatments, pregnancy, pneumonia, full-time teaching, high school musical directing, and community theatre producing, Kayla has been very open and honest about her journey, and she has strived to bless and encourage others through her thoughtful and transparent blogs. She takes pride in all she has been able to accomplish with the help and support of her family,  friends, community, and faith. The community theatre that she founded in 2019 is expanding and thriving; her high school theatre program won multiple state and national awards during that year; and her three beautiful children are happy, healthy, and surrounded by her love and the love of the villages she has wrapped around them.

Parenting Philosophy

As I write this, I ask myself, what do I want my kids to know about what I value as a mother if this cancer means that I’m not there to teach them myself as they grow? First, I want them to know that the most important rule of parenting is something that my mom always told me: “You can make a lot of mistakes as a parent (and I do), but as long as your children know that you love them, those mistakes don’t matter so much.” So, first and foremost, I want them to know that I love them… fiercely. Second, I believe parents should strive to never pass fears and limitations onto their children. People are capable of so much if they believe they are capable. I also believe in having faith, teaching by example, giving straightforward answers to straightforward questions, and empowering boys to be communicative nurturers in the same way that we’ve empowered girls to be assertive leaders. My hopes for my children can be summed up in these words by Barbara Burrow, which sit on my bookshelf at school: “live life to the fullest; discover and share the strengths and talents that are uniquely your own; put your best into each task and leave each situation better than you found it; seek and find that which is beautiful in all people and all things; have a heart that is full of love and warm with compassion; find joy in living and peace within yourself.”

Motherhood and Community

When I moved back to my hometown of 5,000 people in 2014 to teach high school English, I was very excited, but also a little sad because it meant that I wouldn’t be able to participate in community theatre anymore because Harlan didn’t have one… yet. Five years later, with a three-year-old and a one-year-old in tow, the time came for me to rally the community and get the ball rolling. In the summer of 2019, I directed and produced the Harlan Community Theatre’s first-ever production, The Music Man. We packed the high school auditorium, and since then, we have grown so much into what I hope is a sustainable, well-organized nonprofit with numerous stakeholders, shared responsibilities, and dedicated patrons so that we will be able to continue providing high-caliber, community-building opportunities for self-expression far into the future. We now alternate between two and three shows a year, plus a children’s drama camp, and we have entertained and hopefully inspired almost 6,000 audience members with the six shows we have produced since 2019. Also, I have been fortunate to be in a position at the high school to expand theatre opportunities for my students there. When I became the Theatre Director in 2017, the norm was to have one theatre opportunity a year, alternating each year between an after-school play and an after-school musical, and that was it. In the seven years that I’ve been at the reigns, I’ve directed fifteen shows which have won multiple state and national awards, established a Drama Club, a Theatre Performance class, and a Thespian Troupe. I’ve grown our account from $3,000 to $28,000, and most importantly, I’ve given students more opportunities to shine, learn, and be passionate about something. Lastly, I’ve been on the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) leadership team since 2017, and we strive to make it a stress-free place where every mom is valued and supported. I originally attended to gather support for my still-developing Spanish immersion program idea, but nowadays my kids and I go to meetings because we love the people, and they are some of our closest friends.

Kayla Schadegg, 2024 Kansas Mother of the Year.

Kayla Schadegg

Kansas

Kayla Schadegg (BSE) is a Kansas native, amateur fitness aficionado, pageant queen, and disability advocate. Kayla graduated from Emporia State University in 2013, and relocated to the East coast soon after. In 2016, she and her husband, Kelly, welcomed their first child, Kerrigan, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. The impact of the diagnosis process inspired Kayla to create Strong Over Wrong, a platform aimed at improving the diagnosis experience for new families and healthcare across the lifespan for patients with Down syndrome. The Schadeggs then welcomed their son, Knox, in 2021. Kayla currently serves as the New Parent & Medical Outreach Specialist at Down Syndrome Innovations encouraging new mothers, training and engaging with professionals, and working with health care providers. Her greatest hope is to capitalize on her ability to collaborate to catalyze a positive change—leaving the world a  better place for the generations that follow.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is somewhat unique, because it has been largely formed (and informed) by my exposure to the disability community from a very young age. My younger sister has an intellectual disability, and my own mother worked as a para-educator in special education for most of my childhood; to say that inclusion and access for individuals with disabilities was a pillar of my upbringing would be an understatement. With my own children, as well as the children I work with as a disability advocate and as a gymnastics coach, I find it incredibly important to lead by example. We lead our children with respect, and we acknowledge that none of us is perfect to encourage growth and a love for learning new things. I guide most, if not all, of my parenting style and choices by looking ahead to the future I envision for my children. I dream of them as adults in a world where there is no “othering,” and where individuals are respected for who they are and what they bring to the table rather than any disabilities or struggles they may have. I know that in order to achieve that future, I must help guide my children and the other children in my care each day to be understanding, accepting, and compassionate humans–which is easiest to do by demonstrating those traits to them myself, in our interactions.

Motherhood and Community

The first activity I am involved in is pageantry. I am the reigning Mrs. North America United World, but have also held the titles of Mrs. Kansas United World, Mrs. Kansas International, and Mrs. Maryland America. I started participating in pageants as an adult, married woman, at the age of 27. My goal was to find a unique way to advocate for my daughter and the Down syndrome community, and pageantry has done just that. It has opened so many doors and allowed me to advocate for the disability community on a much grander scale than I ever imagined. Thanks to pageantry, I have friends all over the globe who share our story and use their voice to further our message of inclusion. I serve as a Co-Chair of the Children with Special Health Care Needs committee in our state’s Family Advisory Council. This is incredibly important to me as it offers a concrete, immediate place that my voice (and my family’s needs) can be heard and put into action. I love collaborating with other council members from across the state to create ideas, projects, and inspiration for our Department of Health and Environment to make Kansas an incredible place to live for families who may have disabled or medically complex children. I also serve on the Board of Directors and the event committee for the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas organization. This is a pageant – but not a typical “beauty” pageant that most would think of. This system is designed to uplift and encourage women who are wheelchair-mobile. They enjoy an entire weekend of sessions dedicated specifically to their goals and needs, learning about important advocacy efforts, communication and media skills, and team building activities. The winner of the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas title each year then spends a year attending events and goes on to participate in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, but also for my daughter to see empowered disabled women blazing trails for themselves and the young women of the future!

Janie Spurlock, 2024 Kentucky Mother of the Year.

Janie Spurlock

Kentucky

Janie Sue Spurlock is an Eastern Kentucky native. She is the mother of six children and twelve grandchildren. When her youngest was two, she began her college career and earned a BSW in social work and was recognized as the “Most Outstanding Student in Social Work.” At age fifty-four, she earned a MSW degree in social work. She worked in the public school system teaching children the dangers of smoking and doing drugs. She helped her husband start a small business providing health benefits to the elderly. She loves serving her family and the community. She is currently serving as a service missionary for several hours a week concentrating on the deaf community. Janie loves to read, study scripture, do yoga, and walk 4 miles daily. She currently studies Spanish and American Sign Language. She and her husband plan to serve a mission for their church and use their talents in service.

Parenting Philosophy

The best description of my parenting philosophy is Proverbs 22: 6. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The most important thing that I did, when my six children were at home, is that we strived to have prayer every morning and night. We also read a minimum of a few scriptures each night. Each of my children learned to read, which is one of the blessings I have observed, from doing so. My husband, Barry, worked frequently at night, and it was mainly my responsibility to make sure we followed the routine. I didn’t realize how much it was molding them until they became adults. There were times I felt too tired or too busy, but continued the routine. I know they all continue to do the same thing with my grandchildren, so they must feel it was important too. I still parent my adult children when they desire my advice or counsel. I have learned to accept them where they are, gently help them see errors, and encourage them to use faith and positivity toward life’s problems. This is a great source of joy to me as I see them move forward and overcome challenges in specific ways. At first, I wasn’t going to submit this portfolio. I know many deserving mothers. However, many women are losing their moral rectitude in our society, and working with American Mothers is an opportunity to speak out in an effort to preserve it.

Motherhood and Community

My husband and I were able to serve flood victims in Eastern KY last year. We took our old pickup truck and slept in it for two days while we helped organize groups to go help people. My assignment was to make phone calls to those who had previously signed up for help. Many of these people had lost everything they had and sometimes a loved one. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories, but we were able to help organize cleaning out their houses and salvaging what they could. They were so appreciative for even small assistance. My husband and I were in Florida when the hurricane in Tampa came through in September. We learned that some teachers whose homes had been flooded needed some assistance packing up home items about 1 ½ hours from us. We contacted them and headed out. While there, we quickly learned that the couple lived a different lifestyle than we were accustomed to or fit within our system of beliefs; however, we were grateful to be able to serve regardless of differences, and it was an enriching experience. I am currently helping and learning from a group of people who are deaf. I am learning sign language from them and I am learning to better communicate and fellowship with them as part of their group through activities and a Sunday school class for the deaf.

Sherry Sullivan. 2024 Maine Mother of the Year.

Sherry Sullivan

Maine

Sherry Sullivan was raised in Brewer, Maine. She is the youngest of four daughters born to Earle and Jeanette Collins. She met her husband Tony, an only child, in 1984. They married in October of 1985. She moved with her husband and four children, Lauren, Erin, Matthew & Brady, to Presque Isle in 1997 to fulfill their dream of opening a Governor’s Restaurant & Bakery. They will celebrate 27 years of business success in January of 2024. In December of 2023, Sherry and Tony, along with their son, Matt, opened a second restaurant in Presque Isle, Ferris BBQ. She works daily from her office at Governor’s Restaurant balancing administrative work, human resources and customer service duties at both restaurants while never missing an opportunity to enjoy grandmother time with any of her seven (almost 8) grandchildren.

Parenting Philosophy

Work Hard, Love Harder, Be Humble Always. As we all know, parenting does not come with a “How To” manual. We learn as we go, we make mistakes, we think we have it all figured out, until we don’t, but one thing we never ever do is give up. Our children were not at the tippy top of the class and that was ok, they made mistakes and that too was ok. They learned from their mistakes (some quicker than others) and they suffered the consequences because life is full of consequences, as we all know. Our children grew up in the restaurant industry with some of the hardest working individuals to walk this Earth. They watched their parents work hard for what they have and we expected the same from them. As soon as they were old enough to work, work they did. They were paid accordingly, expected to show up for scheduled shifts and save for things they wanted. Although sibling rivalry didn’t always show it, it is very evident today that our children have the utmost love and respect for each other and would do anything for each other. That warms this mom’s heart. Although being nominated as Mother of the Year is an honor, a mother doesn’t do what she does for any recognition. Parenting comes from the heart and it is the heart that steers this ship called Parenthood! Parenting is a very humbling experience.

Motherhood and Community

Most of my community service has been though the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. I first joined the Board of Directors in 2000. Although, the board holds term limits, I somehow managed to stay on longer and served as president for 2 separate terms. I quickly established lasting friendships, amazing volunteers and a community spirit that has been my sole focus since. Being a “working” board quickly made me wish that I could make a career out of volunteering and truthfully, they go hand in hand. As a business owner, we have tried to give monetary support to as many fundraising events as financially possible, but even when that wasn’t possible, volunteering time has always been something that could be done. The chamber of commerce is host to many events such as an annual Strawberry Shortcake Sale, which I organized and participated in for too many years to count. The Annual Dinner for membership was another event that I took pride in for several years while on the Board of Directors, hosting upwards of 350 guests to recognize the accomplishments of area business members. The many business and personal relationships I have gained through this organization have help myself and our business flourish. Unfortunately, covid and the birth of twin grandsons, one of which was very ill, I had had to put this aside because family HAS to come first. Music and Musical Theatre have always been a passion of mine and how fortunate that we moved to a town that had an organized Community Players group!! I quickly jumped on board and have taken part in numerous productions from musical reviews, musical theatre productions and several roles in plays. The joy this group as brought to myself and our community is irreplaceable. Covid was not kind to this group and it just now starting to make a comeback. Most of my volunteer efforts have been centered around community as it is community that gives our business and family comfort and safe haven.

Charlene Day, 2024 Maryland Mother of the Year.

Charlene Day

Maryland

Charlene Day is an advocate with a fervent commitment to empowering women and children. Her work as an International Instructor and Communication Strategist is fueled by a passion for transformative change, which mirrors the ethos of your esteemed organization. Rooted in a philosophy of service, Charlene has initiated projects like “A Forgiveness Project” and “40 Days of Mindfulness,” reflecting a shared dedication to healing and personal growth. Her acumen is sharpened by the wisdom of greats such as Dr. Myles Munroe and John Maxwell. The Ivy League Tour, their brainchild, underscores her dedication to leaving no child behind, particularly resonating with the organization’s focus on uplifting the marginalized. Armed with a rich educational background and a Doctorate of Humanitarianism, her global outreach, from the UAE to community-based partnerships, highlights her adeptness in public affairs. She is poised to join the organization’s efforts, driving initiatives that advance the welfare of women and children.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting, to me, is a jubilant journey, an art form where love and wisdom dance in harmony. I am a mother, a nurturer by instinct and a teacher by choice. When my daughter turned eight and struggled with traditional schooling, I embraced an unexpected path—homeschooling—a novelty in the ’90s, met with skeptical glances. Yet, it was a teacher’s simple advice that sparked my parenting philosophy: “Expose her to the world.” With fervor, I envisioned a classroom without walls, where every corner of the Earth could teach us something profound. I saved diligently, and soon, my daughter, my nephew, and I embarked on an odyssey from North Carolina to California. We weren’t just traveling; we were collecting life lessons, immersing ourselves in diverse experiences, and learning that the world’s variety is the best educator. This journey taught us resilience, adaptability, and the value of seeing life through multiple lenses. I learned to parent by providing exposure, not just to knowledge, but to cultures, people, and ideas. I fostered an environment where mistakes were not failures but stepping stones to wisdom. I guided, suggested, and sometimes, let them lead the way. My core tenets are simple: be involved, set boundaries, and teach respect and kindness. I tell my children, “Respect your elders, know your inherent worth, and remember that kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Above all, live by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Motherhood and Community

I’ve been deeply involved in a support group that addresses the growing demographic of single mothers. My education at Duke University equipped me to draft a comprehensive report that led to a proposal for community assistance. The group focuses on crucial aspects:

  • Educational and Employment Flexibility: We advocate for academic institutions and workplaces to accommodate single parents, recognizing the challenge of balancing third-shift jobs, and schooling without consistent childcare.
  • Community Service: Encouraging a culture of giving back, we facilitate our members to engage in community service by aiding the homeless, and supporting organizations like the Salvation Army.
  • Support and Resources: Through the university project, we’ve secured funding for festive support and pro bono legal aid, reinforcing the community’s safety net for single parents during the holiday season. Education- Sisters 4 Sisters Network and HORUS Partnering with these organizations, I’ve played a part in a transformative initiative that has amassed $50 million for instant scholarships.

This three-fold approach ensures impactful educational support:

  1. Engagement with Colleges: We persuade institutions to participate and invest in potential students’ futures.
  2. Student Preparation: Workshops are conducted to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge before the event.
  3. Celebration of Achievement: The scholarship awards are a joyous occasion for students and their families, signifying a milestone in their educational journey.

Achievement Night: This monthly celebration on the 15th has become a cornerstone for my family and community enrichment. It’s an evening where all successes are honored, fostering an environment of appreciation and encouragement. The outcomes are tangible: 1. Academic Improvement: Recognizing academic efforts has led to improved grades. 2. Marital Strengthening: Celebrating marital milestones has contributed to the fortification of family bonds. 3. Personal Development: Acknowledging personal achievements has boosted individual confidence. 4. Community Solidarity: This tradition has cultivated a network characterized by trust, respect, and compassion.

Jenessa Fillipi, 2024 Minnesota Mother of the Year.

Jenessa Fillipi

Minnesota

Jenessa grew up in northwestern Minnesota, raised knowing the importance of faith, family, and community. She graduated from MSU-Moorhead with a degree in secondary education and a masters in school counseling. Jenessa was an elementary counselor in Fargo for 15 years. Married to her husband Jake since 2002, the couple has been working and raising their 4 children in the Moorhead community. They stay active with church, sports, school, and service. In 2017, Jenessa and Jake founded Down Home (DH) nonprofit in an effort to bridge a gap for families emerging from homelessness. On December 23, 2017, their family transformed their first DH client’s empty space into a fully -furnished home. This sparked the passion to engage the greater community to become a powerful force in the battle against homelessness. Jenessa transitioned full-time as executive director of DH in the summer of 2021. She prides herself in empowering all she encounters.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting is a deeply personal, dynamic, and evolving journey. Having been a mother for 19 years, here are my top three aspects that describe my parenting philosophy.

  1. Unconditional Love: Parenting is hard. It stretches my patience, my preconceived beliefs, and my will. Accepting the gift of each of my children where they are, striving to support them, letting them fail, and praying them into where God needs them to be, are all crucial elements for their development.
  2. Teaching Values: Instilling values such as kindness, respect, honesty, integrity, and responsibility in my children is paramount. These values guide their behavior, decision-making, and futures. Along with this, I believe it’s important to create an environment at home that is conducive to their spiritual growth. This includes inspirational quotes, displaying religious symbols, setting aside a quiet space for prayer, and incorporating traditions into our family life.
  3. Quality Time: Spending quality time with my children is essential for building strong bonds. At the close of each day, we spend intentional 1-on-1 time together. From scratching their backs, praying together, watching silly videos, and sharing more intimately, this time fosters connection and trust. During this time, I work hard at letting my children lead the conversations and allow time for being “still” together. In summary, my parenting philosophy is grounded in faith, perseverance, and structured flexibility as I strive to support each of my children into who the Lord needs them to be.

Motherhood and Community

The current intersection of being a wife, mother of four, and director of a nonprofit have expanded my scope of influence and community impact. The nonprofit world found me as I was certainly not seeking it. While I am flawed and ill-equipped in many ways, I have experienced the Lord’s grace and faithfulness beyond measure. Through failures, hiccups, do-overs, human error as well as grit, compassion, integrity, and vision, there is sustained strength to continue to say “yes” to even more that the Lord has in store. Perseverance and perspective keep me focused as our dynamic, growing team continues to break down barriers for families and individuals emerging from homelessness. I am privileged to work at a place that turns moving in into moving home. Our team of staff and volunteers are Boots on the Ground. Our hearts help us do the heavy lifting by offering hope with our hands and feet, providing a transformative fresh start and designing a life changing space that fosters dignity. A place to invite family and friends. A home to feel inspired, comforted, and nurtured. A community of belonging and new beginnings. Down Home’s process is extensive, intentional, and effective. Less than 5% of families we serve return to homelessness, compared to the national average of 50% and local average of 27%. This has had a significant impact in helping families stabilize in our community – providing hope, dignity, and a future beyond four walls. Touching testimonials from those we are privileged to serve indicates the positive impact in the lives of all who are part of the Down Home story. It is humbling to hear children whisper to their moms during the reveal of their new space, “We finally have beds to sleep on.” “Now I can invite my friends over to play.” These reminders of our many blessings and the power to transform homes and change the trajectory of other’s lives, keeps moving the needle forward in the Down Home mission of empowering lives one home at a time.

Bridgit Patterson, 2024 Missouri Mother of the Year.

Bridgit Patterson

Missouri

Bridgit Patterson pursued a career in Electroneurodiagnostics after her son, Colby, was diagnosed with epilepsy. She trained at the Institute of Health Sciences in Hunt Valley, Maryland and other institutes. Bridgit was appointed as the Program Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Missouri and Kansas in 2015, and is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences. She is dedicated to legislative advocacy and works diligently to secure funding for education and medications. Bridgit worked with Arkansas legislators to secure funding for seizure education and insurance reimbursements for the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, making it an affordable option to treat drug-resistant epilepsies. Bridgit strives to provide seizure education in the schools and bring best practices and resources to help school staff, teachers, transportation departments, and administrations better understand epilepsy to keep children safe and healthy. Bridgit holds a Youth Mental Health First Aid USA certification from the National Council for Mental Well-being.

Parenting Philosophy

Our parenting style often assimilates our upbringing. I had the best parents ever. My dad set the bar for my understanding of hero status. He had the best work ethic, serving his employees instead of the mindset that they served him. He was a strong businessman who cared for his family deeply. My mom suits him well. They will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in January. She did all the mom things impeccably: cooking, cleaning, running her own business, supporting her family with love and discernment while teaching discipline and always speaking encouraging words. Her relationship with Jesus and His Word is her compass. She taught me that too. She taught me the importance of expectations, listening attentively, encouraging independence, and being diligent. To find purpose, know my value, be consistent, and the importance of forgiveness and being forgiven. These things are the framework for raising my kids. They’re both miracles. Infertility comes with a price—a price of loss and heartache but also a never-ending gratefulness for such a precious gift. My parenting philosophy comes from God’s Word. I’m unsure if that has some big 21st-century title, but I’ve raised two of the most compassionate, genuine, loving, well-rounded, and appreciative kids I could ever ask for. Do we make mistakes? Sure we do. Do we learn from those mistakes? Absolutely. I’ve always taught them that everything in life is a choice and every choice comes with a consequence, whether good or bad, so choose wisely.

Motherhood and Community

When a passion and a career collide, it’s a beautiful thing. One of my favorite activities is Studio E: The Epilepsy Art Program. I began this program in 2015, and it’s still strong today. Studio E is for people with any epilepsy and at different stages of their epilepsy journey. Some are confident, while others struggle with stigma. Studio E offers unique ways for people with epilepsy to socialize with others and open up honestly about daily challenges in a trusting, expressive, and welcoming environment. Participants can express themselves through art and work with art professionals and others with epilepsy in a group setting. Our projects use a variety of mediums, allowing each individual to strengthen their artistic voice as they learn from others. They develop confidence as they raise awareness about the realities of living with epilepsy. Our Beat the Odds Epilepsy Gala and Seize the Day 5K Run/Walk are two other events that hold the same meaning for me. They bring together a community of physicians, industry partners, friends, and families. These people develop trust, genuine connections, and lifelong friendships. These connections mean the world to me. I remember when my son, Colby, attended the 5K years ago when I was just a volunteer. We won 1st place in the fundraising category. On the way home, he said, “Mom, I didn’t realize so many people cared.” I’ve made it my life’s mission for people to know they are loved and supported, and I will champion their cause. Such deep-rooted passion comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ, a surrendered journey. To know what God’s Word says about living out that relationship while sharing knowledge and encouragement is simple obedience. While this season of life and service has changed from the church setting, it continues as I care for my mom with terminal cancer and my dad struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease. These acts of service have positively influenced my children. My daughter is a Special Education teacher, serving those with special needs, while Colby has a love for farming and lends his talents to assist with high school football.

Tiffany Geer, 2024 Montana Mother of the Year.

Tiffany Geer

Montana

Tiffany Geer grew up in a small town in Oregon. When she graduated from high school in 1995, she wanted to pursue a teaching career and went to Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. She met her husband, Kevin, at college and they married after he graduated and after her sophomore year. Tiffany finished college and earned her B.A. in Elementary Education in 1999. Kevin and Tiffany were blessed with five children– four daughters and one son. For the past four years, they have been involved in foster care and opened their home to 3 different sibling groups for a total of seven foster children so far. Currently, besides the role of mom, Tiffany is back in school as an online graduate student earning her library certification and Masters of Education and teaching part time at Peterson Elementary School.

Parenting Philosophy

Each child is an individual and wired differently. They are each so unique. However, there are things that all children need while keeping their uniqueness in mind. Every child needs unconditional love, consistency, boundaries, and communication. One of the big things we teach our kids from when they are young is how to recognize their feelings, know that their feelings are valid but not always the truth, and understand that they cannot let their feelings be the boss of their actions. Communication is also a huge part of our parenting. We listen to our kids and they listen to us. We do not keep secrets from each other. Of course, keeping in mind what is age-appropriate information when our kids are young. We also teach our kids to celebrate each other and be happy for each other’s successes.

Motherhood and Community

God is my first love and my husband is my second. I have been so honored in our past 26 years together to be involved in our church alongside my husband while he pastors. For the past 11 years we have been at Canvas Church in Kalispell, Montana. I love volunteering at church whether it be in kids’ classrooms, serving coffee, making coffee, praying with someone, or just giving a smile. Seeing God changing people’s lives is an amazing thing to be a small part of. Four years ago, I resigned from my full-time teaching job and we began our foster care journey. Being involved in foster care by giving children a safe and loving space to be while their family works on getting healthy has been an amazing experience. The life change we have seen in the children and families that we have worked with has been incredible. We always involve our biological children in the decisions before we welcome a new addition into our family. Our five biological children were happy to invite each special bonus child into our home–to the point of my teenagers volunteering to share bedrooms to make room in our house. I have seen my children learn what it means to live sacrificially and look out for other people’s needs. Because of this experience, my biological children all have a heart for foster care, adoption, and children in general. I love this because I think it reflects God’s heart. Teaching is a big part of my life though it has looked different in different seasons. I have spent many years at home either teaching our own children or supporting their classroom teachers. Currently, I am job-sharing the school librarian position at Peterson elementary school. I love being a school librarian and getting to teach each grade level great information literacy skills and a love for reading. Making the library a safe, and welcoming space for both students and staff is our goal. Teaching is a place where my parenting skills, knowledge from the foster care world, and education collide in a beautiful way.

Angie Stenger, 2024 Nebraska Mother of the Year.

Angie Stenger

Nebraska

Angie Stenger grew up in southeast Iowa working in her parents’ real estate and auction company. While in high school, Angie attended the Worldwide College of Auctioneering. She started in radio at the age of 15 and worked on-air at the local station. While attending Goshen College, Angie worked at the local Christian and country radio stations. Her sophomore year of college, she spent a semester abroad teaching English in the Sichuan Provence in China. After college, she worked in radio sales in South Bend, Indiana before relocating to Nebraska. Angie is a business partner in Flood Communications and the Executive Director of Growing Together Northeast Nebraska, powered by Aksarben. For 14 years, she co-hosted the morning show on the country radio station. In 2005, she met Jeremy, her future husband on a blind date. In her free time, Angie loves cooking, traveling and  spending time with Jeremy and their 6th grade daughter Josie.

Parenting Philosophy

Many of our friends are grandparents now and we are just starting to navigate the pre-teen years. I was blessed with the birth of our daughter just one month before I turned 40. She has participated in dinners, theatre performances, meetings, and conversations with adults since she was born. This has allowed her to develop her creative mind and express herself well with grownups. As older parents raising an only child, I worry about fostering a spoiled attitude because we have had the opportunity to take her places and experience things that we wouldn’t be able to afford with multiple children. But that allows for those teaching moments that show her the advantages she is enjoying. I often find it interesting when people talk about being best friends with their kids. This is not a goal of mine. I want her, and her friends, to know that I am the one they can call or depend on. There is not a sweeter sound to my ears than “Mom, can I tell you something.” Every time my answer is “Always.” When I was growing up, our house was where everyone hung out. I remember my dad saying he liked knowing that we were all together and safe. This is the home that I strive for my daughter and her friends. I will still be the disciplinarian and not hesitate to call them out if they are misbehaving. I don’t want to be their friend, but I want them to feel safe.

Motherhood and Community

Early in life I learned the value of community involvement from my parents. Not only can you make your community better, but yourself better through giving freely to others. By attending Goshen College, whose motto is “Culture through Service” I was able to take my love for volunteering to the world. Goshen’s Study Service Term allowed me to spend a semester in the Sichuan Province of China teaching English, learning Chinese and connecting with people. Our students know our language grammatically better than we do but hadn’t had the opportunity to speak it and use it regular communication. 6 years after graduating from college I returned to China for a month-long mission trip to again teach conversational English for high school students through the Mennonite Church. This joy of volunteering is something that I am proud to have instilled in my daughter. For many years my husband and I volunteered for Big Bang Boom, our community’s July 4th celebration that hosts over 20,000 people for fireworks at a local park. From walking in the parade, to setting up/cleaning up the festival she was always at our side. Volunteering in my community is a vital part of my everyday life and our daughter experiences each of the committees and groups I’m in, whether it is Kiwanis, the local Sculpture Walk, or a Chamber of Commerce activity. She goes along to meetings and events and sees the work that is important in our community. Much like her mother, she now enjoys volunteering at assisted living locations, the Veterans Home and around her school through the local Junior Optimist organization. Whether it be through time, money or talents, volunteering is a powerful activity that can have a transforming effect on both yourself and the person or group of people to which you are lending a hand.

Laura Weiss, 2024 Nevada Mother of the Year.

Laura Weiss-Corbin

Nevada

Laura Weiss-Corbin is a mother of six, ranging in age from 27 down to twin 3-year-olds. She has a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and co-owns her practice, Rooted Life Counseling Center. At 19 Laura found herself a single mom, so she worked nights to put herself through college. Laura married a man who loved kids as much as she did. Together they had 4 children. Laura felt a call to foster children in the Clark County area. She learned much about advocating for the rights of these young children. They fostered 5 babies. After 20 years, Laura lost her husband to a heart attack, but she went on to adopt twin baby girls they were fostering. Laura speaks to women throughout the valley about women issues, mental health, marriage and parenting. She has since remarried and has been entrusted with more children that fill her with so much love and joy each day.

Parenting Philosophy

As a mother of 6 children (both biological and adoptive), and a stepmom to my husband’s children, I realized that not all children can be parented the same way. So much goes into truly knowing a child and providing a safe environment for them to flourish. I believe there are some basic rules of discipline that are consistent throughout all my children’s upbringing…for example, manners and good character, matters of spiritual beliefs, expectations of working hard. But daily interactions with kids may need to be different based on a child’s core needs. Knowing them deeply allows for me, as their mother, to understand what kind of sensitivity they need along with understanding what type of discipline they need. In our home we discover love languages and talk through the child’s innate temperament  by about age 5. This allows us to understand their greatest needs and their strengths while working through their weaknesses and growth areas. I feel that children thrive when they are understood and when they are in reality of discipline and boundaries. You have to know yourself to know the boundaries. You need to stay a disciplined person. It isn’t just about raising controlled kids in my home, it is about putting out high functioning, loving, good character adults into the world.

Motherhood and Community

Being a foster parent in Las Vegas has impacted my life and the lives of my children greatly. Learning how to advocate and teaching my biological children about using your voice to stand for the least of these has been one of my greatest joys in life. We have walked, as a family, through foster babies reunifying in tough situations that caused much grief and through foster babies having surgeries and addiction issues from birth. through it all I have taught my children about the world, about the need for prayer, and about the communities need for servant hearts. There has been fulfilling times as well where we have had the opportunity to help struggling mothers in our home state to get the resources they needed to obtain their baby back into their arms. I believe fostering and adopting has grown so much empathy and character into my family’s heart. Another outreach project that has been near and dear to our hearts is outside of our local community. Several years back, my late husband and I purchased Muhammad Ali’s childhood home in Louisville, Ky. We restored the home back to its 1940’s original state, when he was just a boy growing up there. It was shocking to find some of the children in the neighborhood did not even know Ali grew up there. This west end lacked hope and inspiration, yet all along this home was home to one of the greatest civil rights activist of all time. We began buying and renovating other homes in the neighborhood to breathe new life into the streets. Neighbors would see these projects going on and would come out repainting, mowing and caring for their own homes in a different way, you could feel the excitement in the air. This impacted my children in a huge way. I do have adoptive children of a different race and I believe all children should be taught about American history and learn to be inclusive with all people. My children love to learn about life and culture and we should embrace all that made our country what it is today. When Ali passed away, they drove the processional by the newly renovated home, pink, just the way it was as he grew up…what a moment, it was captured on the cover of Time magazine. Lastly, I believe our family has been significantly impacted by learning to serve our community. Whether it is about giving back to our church, hosting grief groups, or donating to local charities that match the values and ethics of our home, we believe serving in your community and beyond (through mission trips and financial means)can have major impact on our society as a whole. It may be through donations or hands on work but the need for help is all around. I tell the children all the time, we love one person, help out one situation, make one small change and it sets sparks to hopefully bigger and better days to come.

Leanna Lorden, 2024 New Hampshire Mother of the Year.

Leanna Lorden

New Hampshire

Leanna was born and raised in New Hampshire. She earned her college degree in education, and met her husband, Brennen. The two married and welcomed the birth of their son soon after. Prior to their marriage, Leanna was a long-term substitute teacher. However, with no teaching positions available the following school year, her job search began again. She became employed at a non-profit in 2010 where she continues to dedicate her time to helping New Hampshire’s next generation by sharing her expertise and passion. Additionally, her job for the past 7 years has given her the opportunity to redefine her purpose as a professional and parent. Her work has exposed her to opportunities that have allowed her to build connections and community with many others, who share similar goals and visions. With that, her growing work experience in advocacy and leadership has strengthened her skill set as a leader and parent.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is twofold – conscious parenting mixed with the Good Inside parenting principle. This parenting philosophy began soon after I had my son and has progressed even more once I was able to acknowledge that our children are an extension of ourselves and believe that we are enough. Conscious parenting is about letting go of a parent’s ego, desires, and attachments. Instead of forcing behaviors on children, parents focus on their own language, expectations, and their self-regulation. The Dr. Becky Good Inside approach is very similar yet can also be applied to life. It reframes parenthood and adulthood in a new way. It instills an unshakeable belief that we are all good people at our core, even when we’re struggling. It allows us to recognize when we are struggling and need help. By implementing these philosophies, we can all grow into higher, wise, more conscious versions of ourselves. And the hope is that our hard work may forge a stronger parent-child connection. It’s not just about our kids growing up. It’s about US growing along with them.

Motherhood and Community

I have been working in the field of early care and education for over 13 years and have achieved success at all levels of the organization. Throughout my career, I have collaborated with private and public partners serving on local committees and boards and consider myself an example for all young people looking to become leaders in their organizations and communities. I feel that I understand the importance of community and my civic duty to uphold the community’s values and sustainability. Through my work, I feel I have demonstrated this by the following: – Represented White Birch Center and other child care agencies as a part of the NH delegation at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Public Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. – Recent recipient of the Gwen & Henry Morgan Award for my commitment to professional development and improving the quality of care and education in NH. When I am not at work, I equally invest my time and expertise into my family and my community. Including supporting local emergency response providers, being involved with my son’s extracurricular activities, and advocating for my child’s needs, as well as mine. Where that advocacy started was when my mental health as a new mom was put in question. Understanding postpartum and perinatal mood disorders, partnered with the anxiety of parenthood was outside of anything I had thought of. When looking for the right help, becoming involved with postpartum support international, my PCP, and beginning a membership with Dr. Becky’s were lifesavers. With regular therapy, community support and medication, my condition vastly improved. While it may have taken me longer to come out onto the other side of postpartum, it made me acknowledge that it can affect any woman and mental health awareness and support are essential for new parents during this time of change. The love and support for the new baby is imperative, but what is equally important to acknowledge is that two new lives have been born – the baby and the mother. She too needs to be tended to, loved, and supported.

Rachelle Molyneaux, 2024 New Jersey Mother of the Year.

Rachelle Molyneaux

New Jersey

Rachelle Molyneaux is married to her husband TJ, a momma to Lucas and Haley – each with additional needs,  and freelances through her career in Transformation Consulting. You can find Rachelle drinking iced coffee, eating chocolate, swooning over turtles (she loves them!) and serving Jesus! Rachelle currently has 4 books published. Three are children’s books where she helps children understand bullying, confidence, and disabilities through reading and implementing activities at schools and Project: YOU, a guidebook designed to help adults dive deep into knowing themselves in order to use their unique talents to help their communities! 50% of Americans have suffered the effects of emotional abuse, and Rachelle is one of them. She understands what it’s like to feel unworthy and because she’s now a survivor, owns the campaign of “You Are Worth It,” helping to instill self-confidence in people so that everyone can grow to know their self-worth.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is quite simple; yet incredibly affective. “Your feelings are valid, it’s what you do with those feelings that leads to consequences- whether positive or negative.” I often tell my children it is ok to feel. It is ok to have emotions. However, we must learn to understand where they’re coming from and what our next step will be. For example, if we’re mad and we hurt another person, that consequence will be negative (for their age – time to think quietly in their room- they don’t like that haha!) or if they’re happy and they help another person or share that consequence will be positive (for example- gain a new friend or feel joy in giving). I teach to take a moment and think of your next step before you let your emotions decide. If I was taught this at a young age- it would have saved me from a lot of heartache.

Motherhood and Community

One of my favorite activities is going into schools and teaching the importance of self-confidence, curbing bullying, and implementing inclusion. I take my books I’ve written, read to the classrooms and then help them with an activity that corresponds. It is so wonderful to help these children know that their emotions are valid and that they can accomplish so much. It lights up my heart. Additionally, for older students, I teach the importance of healthy relationships and boundaries. There are so many Preteens and Teens who misunderstand what “love” really is. I’ve had so many amazing questions come from these children and seeing them get excited to learn more is so important. Lastly, establishing and maintaining my Project:YOU resource through You Are Worth It and helping others find their worth again is incredible. To know I survived emotional abuse and now am helping others recover is a feeling of continuous healing. Collaboration with The Humanity Preservation Foundation and helping them run their podcast dedicated to awareness for child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and recovery further helps me to expand the awareness to people around the world. Speaking with the guests is incredibly humbling.

Dena Fahlquist, 2024 New Mexico Mother of the Year.

Dena Fahlquist

New Mexico

Dena was born and raised in San Diego, California, but has called Albuquerque, New Mexico, her home for the better part of her life. She married her college sweetheart, a native New Mexican, who introduced her to red and green chili, the beautiful Sandia Mountain views, and the magic of luminarias during the holidays. Dena is an Educational Audiologist by day and a Super Mom by night. She has two young children who fill her mornings, evenings, and weekends with equal parts love, laughter, and insanity. Dena is passionate about working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children ages 18 months through 18 years old during her work week. Although busy, she also enjoys losing herself in a good book, carving out time with her girlfriends, taking deep breaths outdoors, and cozying up with her kids on cabin vacations.

Parenting Philosophy

When I became a mother, I never gave parenting styles much thought because I felt every family puts one foot before the other to survive and succeed in today’s culture. Over the years, we have tried to understand our family unit and what values are important to us as we raise our children. My parenting style is equal parts authoritative and attachment. From the beginning, I tried to create a loving and safe relationship and connection with my children. As they have grown, I support them as best I can while valuing their efforts and interests. Their expression of emotion is hugely important in our household. For example, we put my son in soccer when he was three, but he would burst out in an inconsolable tantrum every time we went. He was communicating with us that this was not an activity he enjoyed. We listened, respected this, and pulled him out of soccer. We have now found activities he enjoys. We also work on recognizing our feelings and emotions. We try our best to communicate everything clearly to our children to establish a sense of mutual respect, understanding, and trust while also setting clear boundaries and expectations. We are very open about discussing events ahead of time and reflecting on activities or situations that have occurred in the past. I want to encourage my children to be curious, explore their surroundings, and ask questions to understand the world around them today and for years to come.

Motherhood and Community

I found connections and friendships through a local community called “ABQ Mom” and later became a contributing writer for their team. I wanted to share my voice and experience as a mother, hoping they would help another young parent. I have written about sleepless newborn nights, my unique coming-of-age experience with a Filipina mother, and my journey with a child with allergies, asthma, and eczema. I have realized that my words make a difference. When I meet someone who tells me that they read an article I wrote or I helped them navigate the food allergy world, it makes my heart burst with joy. ABQ Mom led me to create the ABQ Mom Book Club. I was searching for an inclusive and supportive book club for moms that provided connection, friendship, and support through each stage of motherhood while gathering over a good book. The book club has grown and evolved so much! When I started the group in 2021, COVID-19 was still a worry on everyone’s mind, so we held virtual meetings. Today, our group of 8-30 people meet in person because we found that moms are starving for face-to-face connection, and we all need a break from the daily demands of parenting. I lead the discussions monthly and have partnered with a local woman-owned bookstore to provide a safe and inclusive place to gather over a shared interest. My son attends a small, non-profit community preschool that relies heavily on volunteers and donations. I have been so impressed by their approach to education that I volunteered my time to hold a position on the Parent Board. I am currently the Silent Auction Chair. I head our largest fundraising event that usually fulfills our wish list of much-needed items to keep the school operating. While my job feels like a slight drop in a big pond, I know I am putting forth a significant effort to support my children’s education and our community. Finding connections and building relationships in parenthood is so important.

Charifa Smith, 2024 New York Mother of the Year.

Charifa Smith

New York

Charifa Smith, a seasoned entrepreneur with 20 years of experience, currently serves as the CEO of Mother’s Reserve, a global consulting business. A highly skilled senior management consultant, Charifa excels in client experience, international law, and organizational analysis. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Spelman College and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. Previously, Charifa served as the Executive Director of the Federal Judicial Learning Center and Museum of the Western District of Oklahoma. Passionate about international affairs, she contributed to research at the Council on Foreign Relations and interned at the United Nations Headquarters. Charifa is dedicated to community service. She has actively contributed to programs supporting women and children, entrepreneurship, and economic research. She serves as a member of Jack and Jill of America, Brooklyn Chapter and Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Charifa lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her three daughters, engaging in various community and leadership roles.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy centers on fostering a supportive and nurturing environment that promotes the holistic development of my children. I believe in a balanced approach that combines love, discipline, and open communication. Building a strong emotional connection is paramount, as it forms the foundation for trust and understanding. I strive to be an involved and empathetic parent, actively participating in my child’s life and being attuned to their needs. Encouraging independence and resilience is crucial, as it empowers my child to navigate challenges with confidence. I believe in setting clear boundaries and expectations while allowing room for exploration and learning from experiences. Education, both formal and informal, is a cornerstone of my parenting philosophy. I aim to cultivate a love for learning by exposing my children to a diverse range of ideas, cultures, and activities. I value curiosity and encourage questioning, fostering a mindset of continuous growth. In cultivating a sense of responsibility and empathy, I emphasize the importance of kindness and respect towards others. Teaching them to appreciate diversity and embrace differences is essential in fostering a compassionate worldview. Ultimately, my parenting philosophy is dynamic and adaptive, recognizing the unique personality and needs of each child. It involves active listening, continuous learning, and a commitment to providing a secure and loving environment that enables them to flourish into well-rounded, confident individuals.

Motherhood and Community

I am involved in several activities that have had a positive impact including Jack and Jill of America Gavel Club, Mother’s Reserve Youth Entrepreneurship Program, and the Foundation Board of Langston University. Supporting youth leadership, oratorical programs, and entrepreneurship is an investment in shaping the future by empowering the next generation with essential skills and confidence. Youth leadership development is about nurturing the potential of young individuals to become effective, ethical leaders who can drive positive change in their communities and beyond. JJ Gavel Club-a youth oratorical program-plays a crucial role in honing communication and public speaking skills. It provides a platform for young voices to be heard, fostering self-expression and the articulation of ideas. Through oratory, youth develop the ability to persuasively convey their thoughts, inspiring others and building the foundation for effective leadership. Mother’s Reserve Youth Entrepreneurship program is a program we developed to give back to the local youth. We are instrumental in fostering creativity, innovation, and a strong work ethic. By equipping young minds with entrepreneurial skills, we enable them to identify opportunities, take risks, and turn their ideas into reality. We also set up an exchange program with young entrepreneurs in Botswana. To support youth leadership, providing mentorship is key. Mentors can guide young individuals, offering insights, encouragement, and practical advice based on their own experiences. Creating platforms for youth to engage in leadership roles within community organizations, schools, or local government fosters a sense of responsibility and allows them to apply their skills in real-world situations. For youth entrepreneurship, partnerships with local businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies can create a supportive ecosystem. Access to resources such as mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities is crucial for aspiring young entrepreneurs. Encouraging a culture that values entrepreneurship and celebrates the successes of youth-led ventures inspires others to pursue their dreams. Raising funds for Langston University is impactful because education should be accessible to all youth, irrespective of their socio-economic background. By ensuring inclusivity, these programs can amplify diverse voices and perspectives.

Christina Denton, 2024 North Carolina Mother of the Year.

Christina Denton

North Carolina

Christina Denton’s life started in chaos with addicted parents who left their four feral children to fend for themselves. Christina cared for her younger brother despite having very poor examples of what parents should be. After high school, Christina threw herself into work. Working for TD Bank, she was able to finally escape the pressures of her childhood home. Life had prepared her for problem solving, and she found her strength in meeting the challenges presented to her. She emerged as a strong leader and quickly advanced in the company. Christina met James and the couple fought through 8 years of infertility. Determined to raise children, they pursued adoption through the foster care system. Christina and James never do anything halfway. They went from newlyweds to parents of 5 in one year. They fostered Angelina and William first, then Lilli, Amyna and River. Christina and James adopted them all.

Parenting Philosophy

James and I live by the philosophy of love and personal discipline. Our kids began their journey in chaos. Angelina and William came to us in the 4th and 1st grades respectively, and neither could read. They had been in dire need of attention, encouragement, and care. They were malnourished and afraid. Lilliani, Amyna and River were also behind in their education and development.  What we realized, through many trials and errors, was that each of our kids needed different attention, to develop different skills, had a different way of expressing themselves, and each had a different way of learning. The only way for us to meet all of their needs was to begin to teach them the value of love and personal discipline.  We teach our children love each day through care and encouragement, and by maintaining a safe and healthy environment and way of life for them. We teach them to love and encourage each other and others. We participate in the wellbeing of our community by delivering meals to those in need, protecting and furthering democracy and building strong community relationships. Our family lives an example of love to each other and the world.  We encourage our children to take physical and emotional care of themselves, to help maintain our household, and to hold themselves accountable when they do not. By doing this, our children have learned personal discipline. They also learn that no matter their differences, they are valuable and necessary parts of our system.

Motherhood and Community

My kids are active in our community with sports and volunteering. I have been team mom, running around supporting all 5 of my kids and many different sports. My husband also coaches and I am involved in that as well. We have volunteered in our community picking up garbage, making meals for elderly people and people in need, we have provided food for the local homeless shelter and we have fostered over 50 dogs and helped them find their forever homes. I am also the chair for the Clay County Democrats.

Meg Morley, 2024 North Dakota Mother of the Year.

Meg Morley

North Dakota

Meg Morley has lived her entire life in North Dakota. She was raised on her family farm in Walsh County and has lived in Grand Forks since 2000. Meg is married to Michael Morley and has two grown sons, Dylan and Shane, and a wonderful dog named Gracie. Meg is a double alumnus of the University of North Dakota (B.A. History/Political Science 2003; J.D. School of Law 2011). She is a practicing attorney and owner of Morley Legal Services and is also employed by Youthworks of North Dakota as a supervisor and coordinator for the guardian ad litem program in 32 North Dakota counties. Since 2020, Meg, along with her husband, has directed the Mrs. North Dakota America/American and Miss North Dakota for America Strong pageants. Meg was Mrs. North Dakota America 2019. Meg’s favorite place to enjoy North Dakota is on the Missouri River each summer with her family.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is to meet your children where they are, no matter what stage of life they are in. I find that most parenting advice is centered around young children, which makes it seem as though you stop being a parent when your children turn 18. As a mother of two grown sons, I find that meeting my boys where they are in life is still the best tactic. Both of my children deserve to be treated as unique individuals with their own goals, strengths, and interests. Since my children have become adults, I have helped support them as they navigate their own personal life journeys. Educational and career choices, relationships, physical and mental health struggles, substance abuse issues, a global pandemic, and just day to day life are some examples of where I, as a mother, have led with empathy and understanding. I am mindful to respect the fact that my sons need my support, not for me to impose my own opinions or dictate their decisions. Through open communication, encouragement, healthy boundaries, unconditional love, and allowing my children to grow and live on their own terms by respecting their autonomy, our mother-son bond is strong. Most important, I want my children to know that I will always be someone that they can trust. I show this by being consistent with my own behavior, not passing judgment, and apologizing when necessary. There is no greater calling on Earth than to be a mother, I am truly blessed.

Motherhood and Community

  1. My work as a legal advocate for children, especially children in foster care, has had a tremendous impact on me. I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of wonderful children and, though I pray that I have positively impacted their lives, it pales in comparison to the ways that they have all positively and permanently impacted my life. By learning about their lives, their struggles, their joys, and their hopes and dreams, I have become a better person, mother, professional, and community member. I have had the opportunity to receive trauma informed training and my own philosophy of meeting children where they are at has served me well in this position.
  2. I direct the Mrs. North Dakota America/American, and Miss North Dakota for America Strong pageants. I am in my fifth year of directing. I implemented a junior queen division for young ladies ages 5-17 to help them build self-esteem, public speaking skills, and promote servant leadership. It is truly an honor to mentor these individuals and see them become their very best selves. Our official philanthropy for our pageant is the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, which is focused on educating students, parents, educators and communities on drug addiction, and overdose prevention. We have raised thousands of dollars for the Foundation and are actively leading efforts to encourage everyone to become trained to administer Naloxone. Drug addiction is at an epidemic level in North Dakota, and I am committed to being a part of a solution through Victoria’s Voice.
  3. I am the Immediate Past President of the Altru Alliance Board of Directors. Altru Alliance is a long-standing organization that has, over the years, provided substantial financial support to Altru Health System. Through the Altru Alliance Gift Shop and other fundraisers, the Alliance provides money for programs and supplies that benefit patients and families and community non-profits. My husband has also joined the board and we love actively engaging in servant leadership. As of 2022, the Altru Alliance has contributed over $4 million to Altru departments and community non-profits.
Jalyn Cantrell, 2024 Ohio Mother of the Year.

Jalyn Cantrell

Ohio

Jalyn Cantrell is a 28-year-old woman who is a stay-at-home mom to three handsome boys. Her oldest son Jaidyn has Joubert syndrome and has been on hemodialysis for two and a half years. He recently just graduated that process and received his new kidney and she’s been his biggest supporter along the way. She also has a son by the name of Riley who was diagnosed recently with autism, and she’s still trying to learn the ropes but has had her ups and downs with it but it’s okay. She also has a very smart 1 year old by the name of Jaxon that is so easy-peasy to the point where he blends right in with Jaidyn and Riley. She’s fun and super outgoing and still tries to strive for the better even when things get difficult.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting is so fun but can be very challenging. With my oldest son Jaidyn, just seeing him go through surgeries and dialysis 3 times a week was the toughest times of my life. Some days were good and other days were super challenging. He would get sick a lot and have to be in the hospital for days at a time. He had to take 13 different meds just to be okay in which he hated because even some of them would make him sick. He had to go to dialysis 3 times a week every week for 2 and a half years straight. I had to drop out of cosmetology school and move from my hometown Dayton to move to Columbus Ohio just so that we wouldn’t have to travel as much. When I moved here I made sure we lived right across the street from nationwide children’s hospital just for emergency purposes only. He would tend to be In dialysis for 3 to 5 hours every other day depending on his weight and his fluid levels. Trying to keep up with everything including my other kids, daily life issues as well as myself and spouse took a huge toll on me from time to time but no matter how hard motherhood got I still remain positive and held my head up high and made the best out of everything that came my way.

Motherhood and Community

My three activities are: Modeling, Women Empowerment Advocacy & Special Needs Advocacy. These three things changed me for the better. Growing up I was always the kid who would run off from my mom in Walmart to go to the shoe aisle and try on different heels and just strut throughout the aisles until my mom found me. I also have done a few modeling sessions throughout my adult life and for it to be my first few times I did amazing with all 4 photo shoots. Women Empowerment: I love empowering women. It means the world to me to be able to shed light on all women and help be their safe space. Everyone gravitates towards me from young women to old and they all feel comfortable with venting to me. I am a woman for all and have no selfish bone in my body. I am honored as a 28-year-old woman to be able to have a gift of nurture for others. Whatever I can do to help someone else I’ll do it. Special needs advocate: Growing up I had a disability and I overcame my challenges. Now as an adult I have two boys with disabilities. My oldest who is currently 9 years old was diagnosed with kidney failure back in 2020 and was on dialysis for 2 1/2 years. He just recently received his kidney transplant on July 31st of 2023. My 2nd baby was also just diagnosed with autism spectrum and although I am still learning my son and his autism, I as a mom have been experiencing challenges with it but I know for a fact that we will get over whatever we are going through no matter how hard it gets.

Delilah Joiner Martin, 2024 Oklahoma Mother of the Year.

Delilah Joiner Martin

Oklahoma

Delilah grew up in a loving, hardworking family, in an Oklahoma small town, surrounded by faith, laughter, and fun. She is a first-generation high school and college graduate and went on to earn a master’s and a Doctorate. She is the mother of three, including two daughters and one son, and is the MiMi of three grandchildren. She is a Professor, Family Studies and Gerontology Program Director, and Prior Learning Assessment Director at Southern Nazarene University. Professional joys include, investing in students, volunteering, engaging with organizations like VillagesOKC, serving with the Christian Adult Higher Education Association (CAHEA) council, and public speaking. In 2014, her world was forever altered with the devastating unexpected death of her daughter, Kaytie, just 2 ½ weeks prior to her wedding. This grief journey provided a myriad of opportunities to love mothers who have experienced catastrophic loss and to celebrate the gift of her child’s life.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy, born out of love, is all the yummy deliciousness of overflowing love. My love for them is not restricted in any way imaginable and in its essence of purest form it never changes. How my love looks can take many forms depending on the parenting context of what is taking place and the ages of my children. My love for them through the lens of parenting may take the form of education, boundaries, learning from mistakes, forgiveness, acceptance, taking risks, learning from failure, discussion, responsiveness, support, guidance, listening, nurturing, observations, freedom, discipline, choice, reasoning, assessment, safety, preparedness, community involvement, preparation, reassurance, encouragement, etc. The world that I create for my children strongly values Christian faith, life preparedness, the ability to persist and overcome challenges, who they are as God’s creation, and who they are becoming for His Holy purpose. In my heart I strongly want my children to know that they are loved beyond measure and within the context of that love, I want them to become the women and men our Heavenly Father designed them to be so everything that I do for them as their mother reflects love even if at first it doesn’t look initially like love. My highest hope is that they will be a courageous holy loving reflection of our Heavenly Father within their own families and this world, doing what they are called to do with confidence as good spouses, moms, dads, neighbors, friends, employees, volunteers, change agents, decisionmakers, and leaders.

Motherhood and Community

  1. The unexpected death on April 13, 2014 of my beautiful 27-year-old bride-to-be daughter, Kaytie Lenee Joiner, forever altered my world. My healthy half-marathon running, vibrant, Jesus loving daughter, being celebrated over a bachelorette weekend, participating in a race, just days before her May 3 wedding, crossed the finished line, collapsed in front of the medical tent, and never recovered. We immediately pivoted from wedding celebration to funeral planning. On that day my world stopped, and I didn’t know if I could ever recover. There were actions taken in those initial grief moments that eventually became a healing catalyst for me, my family, mother’s experiencing the loss of a child, and others with loss. We asked our community to complete #27actsofkindness to celebrate the gift of her life and we also asked each one to purposefully #livelikekaytie. The world continues to be impacted by her life. Personally, I continue to #livelikekaytie and extend #27actsofkindness monthly to celebrate the gift of her life. Once a year we celebrate big on her birthday by partnering with Mercy hospital, where she was born, and giving to each mother and baby born on her birthday an extraordinary gift basket of items collected from all over the US. Some items given are from people who never knew Kaytie personally but who have been deeply touched by her story, our story, a mother’s story of overcoming.
  2. The SNU Family Studies and Gerontology program students are primarily adult women, and many are mothers. In our studies, as the program director, I have the privilege of impacting mothers and future mothers in very practical ways. They are equipped and can take what they are learning immediately into their personal lives with real world applications. It is an honor to work in higher education as an extension of the church.
  3. Community partnership with VillagesOKC which is a plan, not a place with members/volunteers who are 50+ who come together in the community to learn, plan, and serve. Most of the membership is made up of women who are mothers. A ministry impacting mothers across the lifespan!
Chelsea Roberts, 2024 Colorado Mother of the Year.

Chelsea Roberts

Oregon

Chelsea Roberts is a proud Mom, Non-Profit social media manager, award winning painter, and decorated trail runner. She graduated from Weber State University receiving her Bachelors of Technical Sales and Marketing while simultaneously pursuing her career in Finance. Chelsea was Mrs. Utah Earth 2022 and currently is Mrs. Oregon International 2024. She started the “Bee Fabulous” Community Clean- Up Program, a program that works to engage members of her community to assist in cleaning up their parks. She is an Amazon Best Selling Author and has illustrated several published children’s reading books. She is the Vice President for the Board for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Pacific West Chapter, and current chair for the HDSA Portland Team Hope Walk. Chelsea is Mental Health First Aid Certified and is grateful to use her life experiences, such as loss and miscarriage, to empower and help  strengthen other women.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is to love and inspire. To be brought up in a home that has warmth and love abounding is empowering. My children know we will always love and support and that love is unconditional. My husband and I seek to inspire through action. We are constantly out in the community serving and always encourage our children to join us. They have grown to truly love to actively serve the people of our city and state and look for opportunities now freely. My girls have accompanied me to every service project and appearance the last few years – and those have been almost weekly. My goal is for them to grow with a sense of purpose and pride in their efforts in giving back to their community.

Motherhood and Community

  1. I serve as the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Pacific West Chapter and am the chair for the Portland Team Hope Walk. We recently had our Portland Team Hope Walk last week and my family helped me through every step of the event. From set up to take down they were there with me cheering on the HD community. This event has brought the Huntington’s Disease community together here in Oregon and also has empowered my family as a family unit; together we can do anything.
  2. I am also the Social Media Director for the Still She Rose Mental Health Wellness Organization. My family and I were able to fly to Orlando, Florida for the annual International Gala earlier this month. We were able to bring the pageant community together Internationally spreading awareness of Mental Health. My girls thought it was amazing Mom got to up on stage and share such a wonderful message.
  3. My family and I serve our community weekly by cleaning up our beaches through my “Bee Fabulous Community Clean Up” Initiative. My girls now advocate for a cleaner community and share this message with their friends.
Lorena Padro-Cortes, 2024 Puerto Rico Mother of the Year.

Lorena Padro-Cortes

Puerto Rico

Lorena was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She lives in San Germán with Jose David, Kamille, Yosef and Gabriel. Lorena, mother of three, completed her doctorate while caring for her children and enjoying them. Working in the industry, she balances her life and work. She has launched products globally. As a volunteer, she impacts young people spiritually and educationally. She raised funds for graduating classes, diabetes research, and school construction. She promoted inclusion as a leader of Hispanics/women. Her music impacts her church and the schools of her children. She has been a speaker, mentor, science fair judge, and sponsor of youth STEM initiatives. The American Mothers series begins improving our cooking, encouraging reading, making a home garden, and developing goals. She is a youth ministry advisor where they  develop digital/in-person reflections. Lorena is a businesswoman-founder of InnovaCreate. Her family is supportive and resilient, with a spirit of hope and love.

Parenting Philosophy

Being a mother brings us joy, even if it arrives without instructions. As a biological or adoptive mother, you develop your personal parenting philosophy. Our philosophy grows by learning from our families (mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers). I began my parenting with the guidance of my family. This is founded on the fact that education is important; spirituality and religion make us free; and the family will always be there to support you in joys, sorrows, health, and illness. I expanded my opinion and philosophy as a mother with talks, videos, books, and opinions of other mothers. I created a support network that helped me improve my parenting based on love. My first act of love was breastfeeding. I breastfed Kamille, Yosef and Gabriel for 1 year 3 months, 1 year and 2 years, respectively. This allowed me to hug them, care for them, calm them and be a source of health. A unique experience supported by reading, talks, and testimonies from other breastfeeding mothers helping me to succeed. I have studied and worked during my motherhood seeking to maintain a work-life balance. I carried out a natural upbringing with songs and occasional reading. This natural parenting helps me inspire my daughter and children to dream big; to persevere and create your own unique path to success. By singing, reading and listening, I manage to raise their joy, their hope and above all that they recognize I will be present for them to achieve their goals and dreams.

Motherhood and Community

Motherhood is that biological, psychological, and spiritual state where you give everything for those sons and daughters who call you mother. The city that made me experience motherhood was San Germán. Whether we are married, single or divorced, we seek to form a community. I am grateful to have the support of my husband and my entire family to grow as a mother. Live motherhood 100% in your home or between a profession and your family. It is an adventure for me, taking care of my sons and daughter by continuing graduate studies and supporting technology transfer projects for health products. By seeking a balance between life and work I was able to breastfeed them full time. There was time to play, paint, read, sing or just be and enjoy every stage of his life. I only sought to bring them joy, hope, and creativity during their upbringing. At every stage, I liked collaborating with the school, strengthening their education and well-being; and that of his friends. Develop song and mime programs to encourage memorization, communication, and uniting as a community. Each song brings joy and hope to children and families. Motherhood allowed me to take care of the following activities, strengthening my relationship and duty as a mother to my sons: 

  • Run & walk for MASIS-5K 2016 Pro-fund construction of new school to promote an environment of comprehensive education
  • Judge at the science fair for elementary students
  • Sponsor pilot program of Foldscope Paper https://foldscope.com/  for academic use strengthening science and engineering education
  • Be a mentor/coach for my sons and daughter in their career selection process and professional path development at the undergraduate level.
  • Promote study techniques to promote equitable education by overcoming reading and writing challenges associated with dyslexia.

Upbringing with development in a sport, in music, and spirituality has been fundamental to establish values, time management, perseverance, discipline among other characteristics that humanize them. Being a mother for me is a privilege and I carry it recognizing that the greatest legacy. I leave to this world are my sons and my daughter.

Marie Parente, 2024 Rhode Island Mother of the Year.

Marie Parente

Rhode Island

Marie and Michael Parente have been married nine years. They have three beautiful children, ages 7 to 2 months. She has been a certified paralegal for 20 years. She is a former Miss Rhode Island International 2011, Mrs. Rhode Island United States 2019 and Mrs. Rhode Island American 2021. She is extremely passionate about putting a dent in childhood hunger and has worked tirelessly to help raise over 55,000 meals for No Kid Hungry. She has graced billboards in Time Square, New York City. She has met a standing president. Although, all these things are amazing, she cherishes being a mom above all. The best days of her life were the days she had her three children. Her children are her world. She spends most her days in leggings and a mom bun wearing the many hats of motherhood; caretaker, booboo healer, nurturer, confidante, social planner, and meltdown manager, etc. She wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is to be there for your children in the best way you are able; be present. Put your phone away and really listen to them… ask them how their day was and what they liked and disliked about it. You really can get a great understanding on things that they enjoy and things that are bothering them. I ask them this daily. I also realize the impact of a present parent, mom, in their lives. Someone who takes them to their dance practices and recitals, or is waiting for them after school. Your presence is so important when it comes to raising children. Additionally, I like to go over mantras at bed time, it helps raise children who now they are loved.

Motherhood and Community

One of my favorite activities has been raising money for No Kid Hungry, as well as just helping the community in general with food insecurity. I have done endless fundraisers but I’m most proud of the cereal drive I do a couple times a year. I put together a cereal drive that helps to donate cereal boxes (75 plus boxes) to a local Blessing Box and food shelter/pantry. I love knowing that I am making an impact to help end food insecurity. Additionally, this is a family event because my children watch me do this and see the impact. Lastly, my oldest daughter comes with me to these events and she has been personally involved with making bagged lunches for the homeless. You must practice what you preach. Most recently I was bestowed the title Mrs. New England Music Hall of Fame. This title has given me the ability and outlet to continue to work to help put a dent in hunger. This past September, New England Music Hall of Fame inducted 70 musicians. Each person in attendance at this sold-out event was instructed to bring a nonperishable item. Those items were donated to a local food pantry.

Shannon Morgan, 2024 South Carolina Mother of the Year.

Shannon Morgan

South Carolina

Ms.  Shannon Morgan retired as a First Sergeant in 2022 from the US Army with 25 years of faithful active-duty service. She currently serves as the Chief of Operations for Moncrief Army Health Clinic. She is a Gold Star Wife, devoted mom to 11-year-old Roman who recently made first quarter Honor Roll, and actively serves on several committees and panels:  Vice President of PTO – Dent Middle School; National Schools to Watch Panel; Richland Patient Family Advisory Council; Prisma Health, Chairman; Fort Jackson Retiree Council; and HOA Voting Delegate Member. Ms. Morgan and her son are known for giving back to schools and the community through donation support and volunteer work. Ms. Morgan feels so much pride and extremely honored to be nominated. She is a true role model for everyone of all ages and continues to set the example for all.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy has been to be a positive and influential parent of good character and values, while enforcing standards and discipline. Structure is key that I believe aids in the independence and character of your child. The positive parent is involved, trusting, and encouraging. I praise hard work and his will to be better. I enforce and promote good habits, the love of learning, responsibility, empathy, and building relationships. When you set expectations, enforce those expectations, and ensure your child understand the measures and goals to achieve, my child and other kids, feel a sense of pride when set achievements are met. And when they are not, my son is still proud and will tell you that he has done his best. He will tell you this. I have worked hard to teach my son to be kind and humble. Every report card I have received informs me that my son is kind, helpful, and funny. That my son helps others and makes classmates feel like they belong. He is the kind of child who shares his lunch when someone is hungry. Since Kindergarten I have written a lunch note every day and placed it in his lunch. This small influential gesture makes him feel loved and important and that is key. His physical, mental health, and wellbeing, are at the heart of my words and actions. It is Important that my son become motivated, resilient, and a compassionate adult. I will continue to strive to be his hero.

Motherhood and Community

It is an honor to be invited to serve on committees or councils that make an impact and difference. When your voice and incite provide meaning and change, you feel good and empowered to keep that momentum and to continue to serve. As the Vice President of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), I am committed to assisting in the educational experience. This organization is also a wonderful resource for community outreach and support. I volunteer regularly for lunch duty, provide supplies to classrooms when in need and support their athletic programs. The joy and pride I feel from my son when he knows what we do for the school is immeasurable. I have been a supporter of all his schools. Setting the example for my son and showing him that being giving, being a leader, and making decisions, goes a long way and builds character. When my son tells me he is proud of me, and wants to be like me, that’s a feeling you will never miss and yearn to hear over and over. When I attend my son’s school, the kids know me and gravitate to me. The teachers continue to praise my attentiveness and support of my son. As a retired veteran, I support and advocate for veterans’ health and a part of the Richland Patient Family Advisory Council Prisma Health and Chairman for the Fort Jackson Retiree Council. I make a difference within these organizations and am a valued member. My actions, my character, and my values are exactly what I am teaching my son. My profession and community involvement remind me why I am here. I do it for my son. I do it show him what right looks like. I do it to make him proud and to follow in my path but still grow into his own independence. To be compassionate, driven, smart and loving. To be a man of good character. I am honored for this nomination and will continue to be the example for other mothers to emulate.

Brittany Orr, 2024 South Dakota Mother of the Year.

Brittany Orr

South Dakota

Brittany was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. She grew up with three sisters and wonderful parents and spent the majority of her time outside of school playing soccer and basketball. She graduated from high school in Colorado and was awarded a scholarship to continue to play basketball in college from the University of South Dakota. She graduated with a bachelors in business administration and then completed a Master’s in business  administration from USD. Brittany moved to Yankton and began work at a local bank. About 15 months later she changed jobs to work for the City of Yankton where she has been employed for past 13.5 years. During that time, she married her husband Jason and a year later welcomed their first child, Knox. Over the next several years, they welcomed three girls, Harper, Kaeden and Alex to complete their family.

Parenting Philosophy

The role of a parent is the single most important role any person can have in shaping a child. My most important driving force in leading my family is to raise good kids with love and respect. Every conversation and discussion with our children are lead with the love we have for each child. When there is discipline needed, the message of love is communicated to explain regardless of their action or behavior, the love we have for each of them remains unchanged. My goal is to lead the growth of my children by example with always showing love, acknowledging my mistakes and being a good person to all that we have contact with. A constant message I have to my children is there are many times in life where they can’t control what is going on around them. They can only control how they react and how they treat others in the process with love and respect. The other message important for my children to understand is to always be grateful and appreciative of the life they have. Focusing on what is in front of them and not being concerned about what is in the past. The main thing is I always want my kids to understand how much we love them and that love remains unconditional.

Motherhood and Community

  1. 100 Women of Yankton Member – Different groups or organizations are nominated and five are chosen randomly to present at the meetings. Each member donates $100 and receives a vote from the presentations to be the receiving group for the money. This combined donation of $10,000 (or more) makes a real impact to an organization or non-profit in need. The mission and hope of 100 Women of Yankton is to provide for those in greatest need in the Yankton community.
  2. Yankton Basketball Incorporated (YBI) Board Member – YBI is a local non-profit corporation organized to manage the Hansen-Haas Basketball Tournament and various youth basketball offerings throughout the year. In additional to the annual tournament, YBI offers a youth basketball league for 1st-5th graders in Yankton and surrounding communities. YBI has a summer challenge where youth receive different prizes for the amount of time spend playing basketball over the summer. YBI uses the funds raised to grant $4,000 to $6,000 yearly in postsecondary awards to YHS and MMC students who actively participated with YBI programs. Throughout the years YBI has sponsored various groups with such things as “team send offs” for state basketball tournament teams, Yankton Science Olympiad, Yankton Special Olympics, Yankton Volleyball, CASA, and the Yankton National Guard Unit events. YBI has purchased and provided installation for stat boards and shot clocks in the YHS gym, and video equipment and flat screen monitors for YHS and MMC. YBI continues to financially support YHS Buck and Gazelle Basketball Teams through yearly support of equipment and summer camps.
  3. Volunteer coach for youth soccer and youth basketball teams – Each year I commit to coaching at least 10 different recreation and competitive level teams. As an individual who has received the benefits that come with youth sports, this is the volunteer opportunity that provides me with the greatest impact on direct involvement of shaping the youth I work with. The positive impact of being involved in youth sports provides me with the motivation to always use my time to give back to this wonderful cause.
Rainer Lowman, 2024 Tennessee Mother of the Year.

Rainer Lowman

Tennessee

Rainer was born in Memphis TN. She is the oldest of 4 children. She studied marketing at MTSU in Murfreesboro, TN. That is where she met her husband Mitch. Mitch and Rainer have 5 children ages 18, 16, 13, 11 and 8. Her oldest 2 children are biological and her younger three children joined their family through international adoption. Mitch and Rainer purposely pursued special needs international adoption to provide not only a loving home but also exceptional medical care for their precious children. Rainer describes herself as a health advocate. She is passionate about finding the right medical care for each of her children’s unique needs like cerebral palsy, hearing loss, seizures, heart defect, and more. One of Rainer’s greatest passions outside of her home is her ministry for foster and adoptive moms and families called Hearts Together. Hearts Together seeks to encourage and equip moms while providing a safe place for them to belong.

Parenting Philosophy

I asked a therapist once what her favorite piece of parenting advice is, she answered with “reach for your spouse”. I have seen this to be true. When my husband and I are connected, respectful, communicative and honor each other… the parenting piece goes much more smoothly. I also believe I am forever a learner. I will never “arrive” as a mom in the sense of knowing it all! I learn each and every day. I have seen my children be the greatest of teachers. I strive to connect each day with each of my children in a personal way. I look for what their hobbies are, I intentionally spend time with them and honestly do my best to remind myself that they are a gift and that they are world changers. I want them to be ambassadors of kindness to a hurting world. Adoption has woven in new gifts and challenges into our life. We are now parenting children with trauma in their pasts. I always strive for connection and safety with my children in whatever we are facing as challenges. I see how they respond with kind caring structure and choices for them and how that makes them feel empowered. Trust me, I am learning every day. I am humbled and grateful to be a mom. It is one of my greatest honors. I love being a mom to my 5! They keep me laughing!

Motherhood and Community

Hands down my passion for my community is serving the foster care and adoption community. I have also been given the opportunity to support birth moms and also serve families seeking family preservation. It all matters! I started Hearts Together 5 years ago. I had walked through a particularly isolating season 7 years ago after one of our adoptions. Our family had loving friends, family and neighbors but I didn’t have people I could share the truth with. I did not want to share about the struggles my child was going through with people that didn’t understand trauma and adoption. After that isolating season I knew I never wanted any woman to walk through what I walked through feeling alone and isolated like I had. Hearts Together is the group I so desperately needed. Hearts Together now serves a larger middle TN area with 3 additional Hearts Together groups and we have gone beyond TN with groups now in South Carolina and Texas. Over 1,000 families have been impacted! We strive to encourage and equip women walking through foster care and adoption. We host monthly support meetings with speakers and topics that are life giving. Friendships have been made and women around the country now have a safe place to feel like they belong. It is such a joy to serve these families.

Raquelle Akavan, 2024 Texas Mother of the Year.

Raquelle Akavan

Texas

For 12 years, Raquelle Akavan has been serving as Physician Associate (PA), embodying a strong commitment to giving back to the community and demonstrating genuine care for others. She serves as an Assistant Professor and a founding faculty member at a new PA program in Austin, Texas. Raquelle’s resilience and dedication extend beyond her professional life. After surviving a catastrophic stroke, she emerged as an inspiring figure and leader, particularly as a mother of two young children. Her tenacity led her to grow an organization called PA Moms into the largest American Academy of PAs (AAPA) Special Interest Group, providing a supportive space for PA mothers. Raquelle’s leadership in various initiatives, coupled with her unwavering commitment to her family and profession, reflects her devotion and unique ability to empower others. Her story stands as an embodiment of strength, adaptability, and an unbreakable spirit, inspiring many.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is a blend of fostering inclusivity, love, and kindness within my children. For me, these values are more than mere words; they form the foundation of my family’s daily interactions and growth. Guided by the principle that empathy and understanding must shape relationships, I emphasize teaching my children to celebrate diversity, accept differences, and treat others with unyielding respect and compassion. My approach to parenting is intentional and thoughtful, focusing on open communication and leading by example. I strive to model these principles, showing my children how to interact with the world around them with grace, empathy, and a genuine desire to uplift others. I create an environment where questions are welcomed, feelings are validated, and the unique qualities of each child are celebrated. By creating opportunities for my children to engage with various perspectives and backgrounds, I aim to instill a broader worldview and a deep sense of social consciousness. Moreover, my commitment to community involvement and service is integral to my parenting philosophy. I actively involve my children in giving back to the community, whether through volunteering or other acts of kindness. I believe that these experiences not only enrich the lives of others but also shape my children’s character, teaching them the importance of responsibility, generosity, and a shared humanity. It’s a philosophy not merely about parenting but about shaping future citizens, leaders, and change-makers, who are aware of their potential to make positive impacts in their relationships, communities, and the world at large

Motherhood and Community

  1. Fundraising for PA Moms’ Children in Need: A deeply impactful activity that has resonated with both my family and community is fundraising for children in need within the PA Moms community. Recognizing the financial burdens that some families face, I have initiated various fundraising campaigns to provide support. These efforts have not only provided essential resources to those who need them most but also fostered a sense of solidarity and compassion within the community. Involved in these campaigns, my children have learned valuable lessons about empathy, generosity, and the real difference that collective action can make. It has united my family around a shared purpose and reinforced our commitment to helping others.
  2. Providing a Supportive Space for Mothers through PA Moms: PA Moms started as a small group and rapidly expanded into a global community of almost 20,000 members. By providing a supportive environment where PA mothers could discuss the unique challenges of balancing demanding careers in healthcare with motherhood, I have enabled the creation of strong connections, shared experiences, and valuable support. This community has not only had a positive impact on countless mothers but also greatly influenced my own parenting philosophy, emphasizing inclusivity, love, and kindness. The sense of belonging and understanding has had ripple effects, reaching families and communities far beyond our immediate circle.
  3. Co-founding PAs for Women Empowerment: In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, I have also co-founded PAs for Women Empowerment, an organization that specifically advocates for women in healthcare. We aim to cultivate and mentor new female leaders in the PA profession, providing educational opportunities, mentorship, and advocacy. This initiative has extended our reach and impact, advocating for gender equity and the unique needs of women in healthcare. It reflects a broader commitment to societal betterment and has become a model for my children in understanding the importance of standing up for what you believe in and actively seeking to create positive change.

These three activities have shaped my life and family in profound ways. They encapsulate a dedication to serving others, fostering community, and empowering women.

Monica Godfrey, 2024 Utah Mother of the Year

Monica Godfrey

Utah

Monica was raised in Ogden, Utah. In high school, she excelled in sports and participated in student government. She was a five-time state champion. Monica went on to attend Weber State University where she majored in Communications and graduated in 1995 as the top graduate in her program. While at WSU, she met her husband, Matthew. They settled in Ogden where they raised five children. During those years, she supported her husband through three campaigns during his 12 years as mayor of Ogden. Monica and her husband served as mission leaders in the Peru Lima from 2016-2019. Four of their children accompanied them. She currently serves as a service missionary for the Ogden Temple Youth Center. Today her three oldest children are married and she has four grandchildren. She enjoys organizing, gardening, hiking, pickleball, and church service; but her absolute favorite is spending time with her family.

Parenting Philosophy

I believe children need sunshine, happiness and time to play. They need nurturing, love, kindness and affection. I also believe they need to hear us say yes more than we say no and they need a firm, guiding hand and restrictions – especially when they’re young. We kept the reigns tight when they were young, then loosened them as they grew. I believe that children need to be sheltered from the atrocities of the world, as much as we can, until they are old enough to cope with those things. I believe that my job as a mother is to teach, love and trust my children. I have high expectations for them and yet my job is not to control them. I hope to teach them correct values then let them be accountable for their decisions. I trust that they will learn from their mistakes, and they’ll figure things out just like I have done. I’m their cheerleader and a listening ear in this process of learning and growing. My desire has been to create a home where my children felt valued and where they felt peace. I wanted my home to be a refuge, where no matter what was happening in their lives or the world, they could feel loved and secure. Because I didn’t have to work outside the home, I took my role as a mother seriously and treated it like my job. I read books on parenting and tried to apply all the good that I gleaned.

Motherhood and Community

My husband was first elected as the full-time mayor of Ogden City when he was 29. I was 25 and we had three children. I supported him through three campaigns and 12 years of service. I helped him knock doors, proofread and wordsmith documents, listened at the end of good days and hard days and made sure our home was a soft place for him to land. He initiated a lot of change during his 12 years which helped revive Ogden into a vibrant city. Change also brings opposition. It was a wonderful time and a difficult time. We met incredible people who volunteered their time and resources for our city. While challenging, this experience was good for our family. Our children learned the importance of voting and to have political awareness. They learned firsthand that political leadership takes sacrifice. I think now, as adults, they appreciate people who are willing to serve. We served as mission leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Peru Lima North Mission. We took three of our teenage children with us. We were mission “parents” to 550 young adults during our three years in Peru! We loved those missionaries like they were our own. Once I held a conference with all our sister missionaries to teach them the importance of motherhood and parenting and encouraged them to value bringing children into the world. While I was devoted to our missionaries and rarely missed the major meetings, I made sure to take time off to take our children to do fun activities. I wanted our missionaries to understand that I was first a mother and second a mission leader. I hoped they would see by my example the importance of spending time with children. Our time in Peru was both wonderful and challenging, like all important endeavors. Our children learned that they could do hard things. They attended an international school and made friends from all over the world and learned to value cultural diversity. They also learned how blessed we are to live in the USA.

Carmen Menard, 2024 Vermont Mother of the Year.

Carmen Menard

Vermont

Carmen Menard is dedicated to helping women who are pregnant and in crisis. She serves as the Executive Director of Futures Pregnancy Care center. As the Executive Director, Carmen offers support and compassionate care as she provides affirming options, information, and education for women and men who are facing  unexpected pregnancies. She has been married to her husband Richard for 35 years, and is the mother of one son. Carmen has supported her son through his many athletic activities. She has also worked with several civic organizations to raise funds for the community, as well as provide needed food distribution.

Parenting Philosophy

I believe children should be loved and also with some consequences for bad behavior. Children should learn responsibilities and parents should follow through with consistency.

Motherhood and Community

  1. Always being at children’s (my son’s) athletic activities and intermingling with other parents.
  2. Running a pregnancy center and helping women who are pregnant and in crisis.
  3. Working with civic organizations for fundraisers as well as food distributions, etc.
Marlene Peterson, 2024 Virginia Mother of the Year.

Marlene Peterson

Virginia

Marlene Peterson and her husband, Brent, are the parents of eight daughters and one son and grandparents of twenty grandchildren. A graduate of Brigham Young University in Child Development and Family Relations, Marlene is president of Libraries of Hope and finder of the Well-Educated Heart philosophy of learning. She believes in the power of the Arts to heal our troubled world. She has shared her message in numerous conferences, including the World Congress of Families IX held in Salt Lake City. She has collected over 250 volumes of stories for families as well as compiled a manual for Restoring the Art of Storytelling in the Home. She is the President of a non-profit, Belle Ame Center for Artful Living and co-founded a community of mothers, Mothers of Influence. She interacts daily with nearly 14,000 members of her Well-Educated Heart Facebook group. She and her husband enjoy peaceful country living in Virginia, blissfully surrounded by the stories of history.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is simple: Love your children and trust in God. Love covers a multitude of inadequacies and heaven somehow makes up the difference. Loving means paying attention to them and enjoying spending time with them. I can honestly say there hasn’t been a single stage in the lives of my children I have not enjoyed and been grateful for. I loved them as babies and I loved them as teenagers. And now that all of my children are grown up, they are my best friends. Every day I am on the phone with at least one of them as we work through struggles and celebrate successes and life events. As our family circle grows, so does my capacity to love. I delight in the emerging personalities of each one of my grandchildren and cherish time spent with them. I will never tire of their hugs and giggles.

Motherhood and Community

For the last 20 years, as President of Libraries of Hope, my message has been that Mothers matter because they are closest to our world’s most important natural resource–the hearts of our children. Over 14,000 mothers have gathered from around the world who seek to preserve a culture of faith, freedom and family and a love of the good, the true and the beautiful. We use the Arts- Music, Story, Visual Arts and Poetry- as well as a love of nature to do our work. I created Libraries of Hope to house free resources that carry a message of hope, including the Forgotten Classics Family Library where I have collected over 250 volumes of stories from a Golden Age of Children’s Literature as well as a curated library of over 4000 books that can be read online, for free. I have recorded hundreds of hours of audio stories, listened to by many young people who know me as Grandma Marlene. I love to share what I have learned about using the Arts in a free course called Catch the Vision of the Well-Educated Heart which leads to a Mothers University for deeper study in the Mothers of Influence community. Recently, I spearheaded an effort to create an online community platform called Belle Ame at Home, the fundraising arm of a non-profit charitable organization, Belle Ame Center for Artful Living. This center will be a beautiful home campus to continue our work, through which we will share the message that great things can be accomplished through small and simple means.

Heather Kucharski, 2024 Wisconsin Mother of the Year.

Heather Kucharski

Wisconsin

Heather was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the proud daughter of a former realtor and Marine Corps veteran. She attended Marquette University earning a degree in Information Technology, starting her career with a regional bank. She married her college sweetheart and settled in Delavan, WI. Upon welcoming their first child she unexpectedly transitioned to a stay-at-home mom managing her daughter’s complex medical needs and helping her to thrive. A few years later their second daughter was born, bringing a new experience of parenting. Heather took on the role of teacher when COVID and her children’s health needs required her to homeschool. Heather loves her family, leans on her faith, and is thankful every day for the community that supports her and her family. She passionately supports children’s hospitals, including families needing organ transplants, those on the autism spectrum, patient advocacy, and participating in parent support groups. Nothing brings her peace quite like being near a lake and a good iced tea!

Parenting Philosophy

I’m not a perfect parent but our family motto is, “Kucharskis never quit,” which means adapting to what comes your way and learning on the job through the help of family, friends, and my faith. When things are hard we get through it with laughter… and sometimes a few tears! In the end all you need is a loving approach. I’ve learned that works for one child does not necessarily work for the other. Apologizing when I make parenting mistakes, patience, investing time, pushing comfort zones, positive reinforcement, and working to build resiliency.

Motherhood and Community

In my early years of motherhood, I was very involved through my church, children’s school, children’s hospitals, and community. I currently find myself in the “sandwich generation” of caring for my children, one with special needs, and also needing to support aging parents. I had to reprioritize during this season in my life. I find that many of the activities I have done and currently do involve building community, which in reflection, is very interesting as I consider myself to be very introverted. I love to be able to help in the classroom, field trips, teacher appreciation days, and special school events. It gives me the opportunity to connect with teachers, students, and other parents. When possible, I enjoy attending my state’s annual “Women of Christ” conference which gathers Catholic women for a day of enrichment, prayer, and fellowship. Participating in parent support groups has been tremendously valuable and is something I enjoy. I currently participate in a virtual parent group for parents whose children share complex medical challenges. I also participate in a local parent support group for parents whose children are neurodivergent. We vent, share information, encourage each other, and come away knowing there are people just like me who “get it.” I always feel understood and am able to be a better parent from the support of others. In my earlier years of motherhood, I joined Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). I volunteered as the treasurer and later a care team leader gathering together with other Moms and supporting each other through the ups and downs of motherhood. Connecting with other moms proved to be a lifeline and to this day has given me some of the closest friendships in my adulthood.

Crystal Young, 2024 Wyoming Mother of the Year.

Crystal Young

Wyoming

“Unique, there are no two crystals in the world alike,” explained her mother when asked how the name Crystal was chosen. Raised the oldest of eight children on a ranch in southwest Wyoming, hard work and family unity were required for survival. She graduated as valedictorian in 1984 from Big Piney High. She completed a Bachelor of Science and became a Registered Dietitian. After college, she married Jeff Young and moved to Omaha Nebraska. In the next 21 years they welcomed 3 boys and 7 girls to their family. Joy in the process is a motto that has exemplified in Crystal’s hobbies including completing marathon with 6 weeks training, successfully harvesting a garden in the high Wyoming desert, playing the piano and reading. She helps the High School Robotics team with her husband, assists with an Interfaith youth group in LaBarge Wyoming, and most importantly nurtures seven delightful grandchildren.

Parenting Philosophy

I believe children are inherently good with a desire to please their parents. Parents can be most effective as they trust their children with unconditional love. I trusted my children to make good choices, to be responsible and to be service-minded. I wanted my children to know from experience that I would always be there for them. I would never willfully leave them in need. That means I consciously connect with my children at all ages. Time with children cannot be undervalued. Being honest with myself, I daily recommit to being emotionally, mentally, and physically present. From my experience few if any teaching moments should be perceived as punishment, rather as a natural consequence of a decision by the child. Then I help them learn that consequences usually are not isolated. As children become aware of how their behavior impacts others, they become more outward focused. They desire to be a positive force in the world around them. In our home that means they will start to voluntarily clean up after themselves, get themselves packed and out the door on time for appointments, and be socially aware of the needs of others or service oriented. Mothering is a delightful endeavor because it carries the greatest risk for pain if children make destructive choices, it also carries the most reward as we consecrate our lives to developing unconditional love for the children who we have the privilege to raise or influence.

Motherhood and Community

Community involvement requires leading by example. The following three experiences illustrate how I used my personal life to model a belief system for my children and be a positive influence in the community: I ran my first marathon at age 38 in Sioux City, South Dakota. I wanted to have an experience that would be evidence that a person can do hard things – seemingly impossible things if we exercise faith and diligently prepare. I went from running 2 miles to 26 in six weeks. I prayed for help with a plan. I trained with the same hills as the course; I stayed on my feet 30 minutes longer each week and stayed within 30 minutes of the 7 children waiting at home. I finished with no injuries! And was able to share the lessons I learned with a large group. Sometimes we run, walk, or crawl but we can keep going with faith that we will succeed. The second experience my eleven-year-old daughter and I sold homemade sour dough bread door to door. Our promise was bread delivered within three hours of coming out of the oven. After a couple of weeks of knocking on doors, my daughter said, “Mom at first, I was afraid and didn’t want to do this. But now I know what to say and I am confident in my ability.” The customers responded with “Oh, the smell of fresh bread and it tastes so delicious!” Personally, I developed business skills but most importantly, I “mothered” each home just a little with a loaf of homemade bread and brightened the world. The third activity in 2010 involved taking the challenge to live off the food in our home for 3 months and blog about it. The goal: learn how to be self-reliant and be an example to others. We did it! Many followed the blog and were motivated to learn how to cook from scratch. When the pandemic hit in 2020, my children were prepared. Each of these activities challenged me personally, set an example for my children and influenced a larger community for good.