Meet the 2017 Mothers of the Year|
SUSAN McCONNELL – ALABAMA
Susan has a BA in Psychology from Auburn University and MA in Clinical Psychology from MTSU in Tennessee, and is a former member of Alabama Psychological Association. She has spent a career as a family counselor and author which has shaped her values as a parent and provided positive guidance for others in the journey of parenting and marriage relationships. Susan has been involved with the National Assistance League of Mobile and is the author of Raising Great Kids in a Tough World (Thomas Nelson, 2005) and Parenting in Tough Times (Eagle Books, 2007). She has been married to Roger, her husband of 40 years and together, they have two children.
TERA LARSEN – ARIZONA
Tera was born in North Ridge, California during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles where her dad was coaching a competing cyclist. Her young life was filled with travel and adventure. Tera attended Queen Creek High School where she was involved in FFA, FBLA, NHSA, Key Club and 4-H. and was the state pole vault champion and record holder. She received a full ride academic/athletic scholarship to NAU. During this time she met her husband, Isaac Larsen, and they were married in 2004. She graduated from NAU with a degree in Community Health Education with an emphasis on nutrition and started coaching for Flagstaff Unified School District. During this same time her first child was born. After two years as head coach, Tera stepped down to introduce a fifth child to their family. In 2014, Tera started an equestrian riding school which allowed her to be at home and for her children to have opportunities to work with animals.
NATALIE KJELSTROM – CALIFORNIA
Natalie is the mother of 5 children ages 7, 5, 5, 2, and 1 years old. Before her promotion to “mother,” she worked as a recruiter for Disney and KPMG for 5 years. She Teaches her twins at her children’s co-op preschool (Joy School) a group of 7 children ages 4-5 years old. Natalie also volunteers in her 2nd graders classroom every other week and runs three half-marathons a year. She leads a park group for moms in the community on Fridays and teaches the adult woman in her church congregation and intermittently teaches the youth program and child’s program. Natalie also visits her “adopted” Grandma with her children every month at the nursing home. Natalie ran the Phoenix marathon in 2015 while nursing and (not realizing) she was pregnant! She enjoys dancing and jumping in puddles with her children and her hobbies include running, basketball and celebrating.
JENNIFER RYAN – COLORADO
Jennifer is a Colorado native who grew up in Pueblo. She attended college at Regis University in Denver and has worked for more than 25 years in healthcare, finance, insurance marketing and sales. In 2006, Jennifer adopted her daughter from Siberia, Russia and learned to speak Russian and communicated with her child by sign language, as her daughter did not speak. Jennifer has helped her daughter become a resilient young lady and overcome many challenges during her developmental years through art therapy. Jennifer has been an active volunteer at her daughter’s school, and served on numerous community committees and non profit boards for 20 years. In 2016, she was a finalist for the prestigious Athena Award through the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. Jennifer founded a non profit, The Mural Project of Colorado Springs where works with at- risk kids and under privileged community members to create unique murals and public art.
AIMEE LAZNIK – DELAWARE
Aimee was born to a loving couple who instilled in her the many important lessons that helped to shape her into the mom that she is today. Aimee grew up in a small south jersey town with her parents and younger brother and lived next door to her best friend, her grandmother who was 65 years her senior. Despite the difference in age, Aimee learned many valuable things about life from her beloved Granny. Aimee was lucky to share her life with her grandmother for her first 40 years. Aimee attended college at Stockton University in Pomona, NJ, where she studied social work and social life. She was the sunshine for her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. Those years in AGD provided her with many special friends as well as precious memories. Aimee was married in Cape May in April of 2005 and currently resides in Newark, DE with husband John and sons Jax, Max and Pax.
BARBARA OWENS – DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Barbara Owens is the wife of the pastor of Michigan Park Christian Church and the mother of 3 children whom she home schooled. Barbara has spent a career in the field of education and has a BS in Sociology/Psychology and a M.Ed in Elementary Education. In addition to 21 years of successful teaching experience, Barbara has been involved with “Chance Academy,” an organization that educates parents on home schooling their children. Barbara is also passionate about helping families in need through “Community Health Initiatives.” Through this organization, Barbara provides groceries, access to health care, or even transportation to doctor appointments. She has reached out internationally doing mission work in the Republic of Ghana, West Africa where she was instrumental in providing 4 villages with fresh water wells.
ALYSSA MICELI – HAWAII
Alyssa is a 28 year old mother of three who has not figured it all out, but she is faithful and devoted daily to try and accomplish just about anything life has to offer. Alyssa’s heart has been graciously loaded with experiences for which she is forever thankful. She met the love of her life through a family move in high school and together, Alyssa and her husband have moved all over the country. Alyssa enjoys being a MOPs leader at her church and as a Military spouse, she is involved with many organizations. One of the organizations Alyssa and her husband are actively involved with is the FRG (Family Readiness Group). This group is for families of deployed service members and has been such a blessing to her family, helping them learn how to cope with a husband and father being gone for long amounts of time. Alyssa’s world usually revolves around sending care packages to her deployed husband while raising their 3 blessings.
SHARON MILLER – IDAHO
Prioritizing family first is what Sharon Miller has considered her family foundation. Sharon and her husband, Bob, were very young when they began their family. They raised three active boys as Bob’s career moved them through many states. On the Sunday evenings when he was able to be home, Sharon preserved that precious time to gather as a family and eat, laugh and converse together. She would never miss hosting a special occasion, even during a move time. The family birthday party would still occur in the hotel room between homes. Sharon has been active in her boys’ lives through school events, sports and volunteering. Sharon and Bob have also participated in meaningful philanthropic organizations. She is a role model to her family. She continues the family traditions of gathering her boys and their families together for celebrations. Memories continue to be made with growing family of daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren.
ILLINOIS – ANDRA EBERT
Andra is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Social Worker with a Masters in Gerontology and has worked for several years at Taylorville Memorial Hospital in the Social Services Department. Andra’s other roles are daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, friend, and volunteer. A farmer’s wife who has been fortunate to be married 34 years to William Ebert. Andra is blessed with 2 children Brendan and Morgan, and 4 grandchildren, Rian, Chloe, Temprance and Hadley. In the early 90’s, she developed a program called Bridges, a volunteer service credit program, that won the Governor’s Home Town Award. In 2014, Andra started a new program called Heartland Mini Hoofs, using miniature therapy horses to visit nursing homes, hospitals, Alzheimer’s units, senior homes, DD homes and schools. Last fall, she added “Just Say WHOA to Bullying” to their repertoire. This is a program aimed at elementary school kids to help them recognize bullying and more importantly how to stop it.
NANCI TRIBOLET – IOWA
Nanci Thompson Tribolet was born in Maryville, Missouri located in Nodaway County to parents Margaret A. Henderson Thompson and Donald C. Thompson. She was blessed with five siblings. Nanci was raised on a farm with strong family values. She attended Bedford School, graduating with the Class of 1969 and continued her education graduating from Airline School in Kansas City, Missouri. On June 26,1971 she married her high school sweetheart, the love of her life Larry D. Tribolet, who is a treasure to all! They are blessed with three awesome children Christopher, Jonathan, and Jennifer. She is a mother-in-law to a beautiful daughter besides having the honor of being Grandma to five precious grandkids Julian 12, Marin 9, Jaxon 8, Evan 6, and Ben 5. Nanci’s love of children has been the foundation of a career of 45+ years in childcare for over 150 children in her community.
JENNIFER HARRINGTON – KENTUCKY
Jennifer Harrington is a mother to four wonderful children and has instilled in each of them a love for learning. As a homeschool mother, Jennifer diligently perseveres in creating lessons that cause her children to thrive in learning. Jennifer also works part time as an Associate Professor at the Lincoln Memorial University Physician Assistant Program where she shares her knowledge with 100 new medical students every year. Jennifer received a Master’s of Health Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Lock Haven University and her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from Grove City College. She also finds time to volunteer in the community and coaches an Odyssey of the Mind team, a program that nurtures creativity and problem solving skills in youth through STEM like activities. Jennifer and her husband Bernie, live in Williamsburg, Kentucky with their four children.
KITTY WHITE – MAINE
Clarice White, better known as Kitty, is 68 years old and lives in Augusta, Maine. She has been married to her husband, Donald, for 46 years and together they have 4 children and 10 grandchildren. Kitty has been a licensed hairdresser for almost 50 years. She plans to retire in June of 2017 but will remain active with her children and grandchildren in their activities. These activities include, a drill team, various sports, scouting, drama at school, as well as working on their graduation parties. Kitty also volunteers in different positions and committees at her church. She is a lector for masses and also a commissioned Eucharistic Minister. Kitty was a member of the St Augustine School Board and chaired the church Bazaar. She volunteers at the local hospital as a Eucharistic Minister to the sick and has recently been asked to be an altar server at funerals in her parish. She is the chaplain Le Club Calumet, a Franco-American Club, and president of her local Senior Citizens’ Club. Kitty loves reading, dancing, walking, and spending time with family and friends.
SHALITA O’NEALE – MARYLAND
Shalita graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in criminology and also holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Maryland Baltimore. Shalita founded Fostering Change Network LLC in 2012 as a way to use her 13 years of experience in launching, building and sustaining non-profit organizations and non-profit programs to help others do the same. She has also been heavily involved in child welfare training and advocacy and connecting young professionals with foster care histories, like herself, through local and national professional networking events. Shalita’s desire to help adults from foster care secure resources that will allow them to contribute to the economic development in their communities led her to found the Fostering Change Network Foundation- a non-profit organization. She is also the founder of Hope Forward, Inc. Through Shalita’s grant-writing skills and relationships with local foundations and key community figures, she has been able raise over $2 million for this non-profit over the past 8 years. Shalita and her husband have a six year old son and live in Maryland.
GEORGIA TRINKA – MASSACHUSETTS
Georgia was born in Middlebury, Vermont to Katherine (Lussier) WIlley and John Willey on June 2, 1977, the second of four children. Her parents came from farming families where they moved around the state of Vermont and Georgia was able to live in many different places. She attended Otter Vally UHS and graduated in 1994, then attended Houghton College in New York where she graduated in 1998. After college, Georgia worked as a nanny and then as a social worker in Massachusetts when she married Darald Trinka, in 2001. In 2004, she had her first child, followed by three daughters. They adopted another daughter in 2011. Georgia and her husband started doing foster care in 2003 and have taken care of many toddlers and infants since then.
ANN McGUIRE – MINNESOTA
Ann is the mother of two boys and is very active in her community and volunteering her time to lead faith formation classes. Since 2002, she has been the Volunteer Recruiter and Coordinator for the Hogar Teresa Toda/Church of Saint Edward Camp. The Hogar Teresa Toda is a home in the Dominican Republic run by Carmelite Nuns for very poor girls. Ann is passionate about this ministry and has spent countless hours leading mission trips that has touched the lives and given hope to countless young women. Ann, and her husband live in Bloomington, Minnesota with their two boys where Ann spends time actively volunteering and tutoring at their school.
KAREN HELMIG – MONTANA
Karen grew up in Miles City, a small town in eastern Montana and worked as a realtor and with home based businesses such as Lia Sophia Jewelry, Norwex and Isagenix. Karen married the love of her life in 2003 and have been blessed with three beautiful children. All three children have a rare genetic disability which affects them mentally and physically and have shown Karen what true strength and perseverance looks like. In March of 2011, Karen and her husband decided to become licensed foster parents and currently have a total of eleven children. Karen and her husband lead a special needs parenting small group. She is also on the board of a local foster adoptive parent group called Forever Families, and serves on the parent advisory board of the local Children’s Clinic. Karen knows that being a special needs parent can be a lonely and hard walk, but surrounding yourself with others on the same path brings encouragement and strength.
SUSAN CLARK – NEBRASKA
Susan Clark was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in a loving family with 4 siblings. She attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Masters of Science in Urban Studies. In 1984, Susan joined the Omaha Police Department as a patrol officer. During her 23-year career, she worked as a Vice detective, DARE Instructor, and was the first female in the department to be a bicycle patrol officer, complete and pass the SWAT School, and become a K-9 handler. In 1986, Susan enlisted in the United States Army Reserves as an Intelligence Analyst. After retiring, working for a short time as the bodyguard for Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert until 2015. Susan is married 30 yrs to Dennis, and mother of 6, ages 9-27 yrs old, and has 3 grandchildren. Is a 20-year member of St. Stephen the Martyr Church, is also active in Special Olympics through the Omaha Police Department Torch Run. Susan’s efforts support her 15-yr-old Down Syndrome daughter Josie.
ANJALI REAGEY – NEW HAMPSHIRE
Anjali has an undergraduate degree in Human Psychology from Boston University and graduated from the RN BSN program at the University of New Mexico, School of Nursing.
Anjali has had opportunities to work in schools, acute care, Emergency Room, postpartum, and neonatal intensive care units. All of these have provided her with the chance to serve families when they are vulnerable. She currently works as a Hi Tech Pediatric RN serving children and families at Northern Counties Health Care in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Anjali and her husband, live in Bethlehem, New Hampshire with their four boys where Anjali recently made the decision to home school them. She also leads a children’s ministry at their church where Anjali maintains her heart is for all children to be hungry for truth and wisdom, to walk in confidence and love, and to live a life of faith.
REBECCA LATHAM – NEW MEXICO
In January 2015, Governor Susana Martinez appointed Rebecca Latham as the Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department. With more than a decade of experience in advertising and marketing, Rebecca is a passionate tourism professional who has served New Mexico’s hospitality industry since 2006. She brings a wealth of experience across all aspects of the marketing spectrum including economic development, strategic messaging, brand development, public relations, and communications, and in 2013 Rebecca was named New Mexico’s Tourism Professional of the Year. Rebecca is the proud mother of two joyful children, Joshua (6) and Alana (4). She and her husband, Scott, both enjoy serving the people of New Mexico through their work for the state, along with skiing and being outdoors with their family.
MARY HOFFMANN – NORTH DAKOTA
Mary Hoffmann is the mother of two accomplished young women and the grandmother of 3 beautiful children. One daughter is an entrepreneur working from home so she can raise her children full-time. The other is in the teaching profession as is her mother. Mary is a Concordia College Associate Professor in Apparel and Design and has dedicated her life to teaching and mentoring young women. As head of the high school Home Economics Department for 40 years, Mary has guided women to academic excellence and success as adolescents. Mary won the esteemed “Golden Apple Award” for excellence in teaching, and an award for Life Saving via the heimlich maneuver. For decades, Mary has served a national organization mentoring college women to become their best. She has made major contributions and awarded educational grants for over 20 years. She collaborated with the Oklahoma Department of Education on a curriculum development book for high schools.
ANITA WEBB – OKLAHOMA
Anita has been married 39 years to Alan Webb and together they have two children and two grandchildren. Out of Anita’s compassion for the underprivileged children who would not get gifts at Christmas, Anita and Alan established a nonprofit 32 years ago called Santa’s Cause, providing anonymous, last minute response to children’s letters to Santa that would otherwise go unanswered. Santa’s Cause has served more than 30,000 children since 1985. In addition, Anita has served Oklahoma mothers well for over 30 years as a fundraiser for Birth Choice, raising over $150,000 each year. When her children entered junior high and began to participate in extracurricular activities, Anita left her job and became a full-time mom. Despite the generous time she devoted to volunteering, she never missed her children’s extracurricular events. Anita has served the community as a substitute teacher who became known as “everyone’s mom.” Anita’s home continues to be “the hot spot” for family and friends to gather.
JEN ACUNA – PENNSYLVANIA
Jen Acuna was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and has lived there almost all of her life. She has strong ties to the community and a large extended family in the area. In 2009, Jen met her husband, Max while they were both working at Dickinson College. Max has since moved on to another job, but Jen remains a full-time employee of the college. Jen also volunteers for the United Way, is a high school math tutor and the owner and founder of Bessie’s Best Lactation Cookies, a product to help new mothers successfully breastfeed. Jen works hard to build the spirit of compassion and sense of community in her two children. The world of the Acuna family is always changing and evolving with the help of God and their extended families. It may be hectic, but they wouldn’t have it any other way! Jen is expecting their third child in April.
NYDIA DIAZ-PEREZ – PUERTO RICO
Nydia Margarita Diaz-Perez is the 5th of 6 siblings, growing up in Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands, where she completed her primary and secondary education at St. Mary’s Catholic School. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and the “Crucian” dialect. Nydia has completed credits leading to a master degree in TESOL. After completing her college degree in education and business administration in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Nydia worked for 30 years teaching English as a second language with the Puerto Rico Department of Education. During her employment, Nydia contributed with achievements at the Divine Trinity School in St. Croix, USVI, with the US Virgin Islands Department of Education, the Puerto Rico Department of Education and with Daniel Construction, Westgate Caribe. She loves to participate in cultural and social, community events shared with her husband Teodoro. She is currently a member of the Puerto Rico Society of Retired Teachers, the Saint Mary’s Residents Association, the PR Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Perla del Sur Club, the Sisterhood of the Sorrowful Virgin, and American Mothers, Inc.
JENAY SHERMAN – TEXAS Jenay Sherman is a mother of four young boys, all under the age of eight years old. Jenay was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and attend Ohio University where she received a B.S. in Communications. After teaching Leadership at Indiana University, she went on to the University of Dayton to earn her M.A. in Communications. When her husband’s job moved the family from Ohio to Texas, Jenay stayed home with her four young boys, teaching Public Speaking at multiple campuses of Collin College, and providing marketing services for small businesses. During this time, she also started a popular parenting blog, became a featured writer for Scary Mommy (a leading mommy web community), and published a children’s book in an effort to introduce both black and special need’s characters to mainstream fiction. In 2016, she began teaching Leadership at Lovejoy High School, and served as the JV Cheer coach at the school. She was honored to receive a Teacher Appreciation recognition from one of her students as a teacher who had made a profound impact in their life. Jenay, and her husband Willie, live with their four boys in McKinney, TX.
LOUANN CHRISTENSEN – UTAH
LouAnn Newell Christensen has faced many challenges throughout her life including: divorce from an abusive relationship, single parenting, graduating from a university with three young sons (ages 2, 4, & 8), working as a single parent, re-marrying and blending two families that included eight children ages 8,9,10,11,12,14,15, & 16, the joy of a new baby with her new husband, a daughter diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a nine year old, and the tragedy of four step children passing away. Although life’s challenges have been very difficult; she has faced them with optimism and become an advocate and leader for families in her community. Serving her city for fourteen years, six of those years as a council member and eight years as mayor she was an advocate for strengthening families. Working in leadership positions on numerous state, regional, and local boards allowed her to make her case for families.
ELIZABETH AINSWORTH – VERMONT
Elizabeth Ainsworth, more often known as Liz, lives with her husband and four children in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Over the years, she has been a Cub Scout leader, a cheer leading coach for the local youth football league, a member of the elementary PTO, a board member of the Head Start Policy Council, and a business owner. Four years ago, Liz followed a crazy idea of operating her own travel agency, and a branch of Pixie and Pirate Destinations, LLC was born! As a small business owner, she has been able to support different local activities for the area children. She has sponsored the Bellows Falls Junior League (youth baseball), supported the high school drama, and sponsored the Central Elementary 5K for two years. Liz has also been a sitting board member of the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance. Her mother, who passed away when she was 19, was her biggest supporter, and inspiration. Liz only hopes she can be the same for her own children.
LIZZY CONROY – VIRGINIA
Lizzy is Vice President at Huckaby Briscoe Conroy Group-Keller Williams Realty in McLean, VA where she co-leads the #1 team in the #1 real estate office in McLean. Lizzy graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Economics and has served in a number of professional capacities in the Washington, DC area – first with the international trade group of Hogan Lovells, then as a marketing manager with MicroStrategy of McLean, VA. She also held business development positions with Kalmia Construction, a Maryland-based commercial construction company, and Newmark LLC, a New York City-based commercial real estate firm. Lizzy is the 2005 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society National Woman of the Year and a past member of the LLS Board of Trustees. She is a sustaining member of the Jr. League of Northern Virginia and is a devoted member of her church, Trinity United Methodist. She and her husband, Steve, live in McLean, VA with their two children.
STACIE ROHN -WEST VIRGINIA
Stacie Rohn serves as the Chief Professional Officer for the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle where she manages clubs in all three counties. She is responsible for board engagement, resource development, marketing, and program services. She has worked and volunteered for Boys & Girls Clubs for over 20 years. Stacie also served as the Development Manager of the Eastern Panhandle CARE Clinic from 2009 until 2013 where she was responsible for fund development, relationship management, marketing and public relation activities for the annual campaign. In her early career, Stacie taught gymnastics to many area youth. Stacie has spent the majority of her professional career working with underserved children and families in West Virginia. A native of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, Stacie has committed her professional life to create hope and opportunity for West Virginia youth. She lives in Martinsburg, WV along with her husband, Rick and daughter Rebecca.
ROBYN VINING -WISCONSIN
Robyn Beckley Vining is a photographer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves being a Mom. Photographing families has been a window into the excitingly diverse expressions of motherhood for Robyn as her job requires her to focus on relationships and who people truly are. When Robyn focuses her work on these things, notably mothers, she walks away from a photo shoot a better person, a better mom. She has also learned to be a better mother from every woman and child she has photographed. Robyn feels fortunate to come from a long line of women who have dedicated their time and words to supporting her through life. In 2013, she was awarded the Philanthropic 5 award from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. Robyn, and her husband of fifteen years, have two children.
EILEEN HALE – WYOMING
Eileen was raised in a busy and wonderful family in Evanston, Wyoming. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked on the railroad. She learned to be a mother by watching her own mother who filled their home with love, laughter and music. Eileen met and married her husband, Mel, while attending her second year of college. They moved to the farm where he grew up, in Fairview, Wyoming, and they raised their family there. Eileen and her husband are the parents of seven wonderful children (five boys and two girls). In recent years they have added five beautiful and talented daughters-in-law and 14 adorable grandchildren. Being a mother has been and continues to be a blessing to Eileen. It has been the source of her greatest joy.