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Moms Who Rock
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When we asked you to tell us about the amazing moms in your life, we had no idea we'd be flooded with hundreds of stories about such inspiring women doing pretty powerful stuff for their families, friends and communities.
Narrowing our search to just six finalists was no easy task, but, ultimately, these women represent all mothers who work selflessly each day to raise their families and do good things. Here they are: our Moms Who Rock.
Grand-Prize Winner: Starla Jones
22, Norman, Oklahoma; mom to son Elijah, 13 months, and foster mom to her niece, 5 months
Why she rocks: She broke a family legacy of neglect and abuse and fostered her sister's drug-addicted infant — all while being a new mom herself.
Her story: Four days after Starla Jones' estranged older sister gave birth to a little girl, the baby was handed over to foster care. (The laws in some states prohibit the baby from being identified.)
Starla, herself a new mom, felt she needed to step in and help. “I wanted to do what I could to give her a normal life,” says Starla, who lived in foster homes for a couple of years as a child. “I didn't want her to go through what I did.”
When she and her husband welcomed her niece at 3 weeks old, the newborn was underweight and still dealing with drug withdrawal symptoms like not wanting to be held and difficulty sleeping. “That was probably the hardest time of my life,” she says. Fortunately, the little girl is thriving under their care. “She's so smiley,” says Starla.
The couple are trying to officially adopt the infant. “It's a huge blessing to see a baby who was going through something so difficult and then to see her get the love she deserves,” Starla says. “I'm truly amazed to see her happy and doing great.”
Special thanks to the Omni Orlando Resort for hosting Starla and her family for a four-night stay.
24, Seattle, Washington; mom to daughter Kaylee Hope, 5 months
Why she rocks: Despite an unimaginable loss, she reached out to support other grieving parents.
Her story: After a healthy pregnancy in 2009, nurse Courtney DeYager was devastated to give birth to an 8-pound 14-ounce stillborn son named Zachary. Days later, Courtney began blogging her story at zacharymichaeldeyager.blogspot.com as a way to deal with her grief and connect with others dealing with devastating loss. “The blog has been a great way to reach out to other moms and give a voice to those who've lost a child,” she says.
A few days after Courtney suffered an ectopic pregnancy in January 2010, a fellow nurse asked her to travel to Haiti to help in the aftermath of the earthquake. Her time there brought an unexpected reward. “Haiti was the first time I felt like I could love kids again. It was healing for me,” she says. Soon after returning home, Courtney learned she was pregnant. Kaylee Hope was born Nov. 27, 2010. “I'm loving being a mom and soaking it all in,” Courtney says.
37, San Rafael, California; mom to daughter, 5, and son, 22 months
Why she rocks: She has tirelessly collected baby clothes for new-borns in need since 2006.
Her story: For the past five years, Amy Dunnigan has made it her mission to help Loved Twice, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting and distributing gently used clothes to underprivileged babies in the San Francisco area.
Since 2005, Loved Twice has collected 25,000 pounds of items — 5,000 pounds of which Amy contributed. She gathers, washes, sorts, repackages and delivers goods to the organization each week. She even scours sites like Craigslist and tries to convince sellers to donate items instead. “After you become a mom and hear that any child is in need, you want to drop everything and help,” she says. “It's just instinct.”
Amy also uses this as a learning tool for her kids. “My son is in the car when I make my pickups,” she says. “And my daughter enjoys snapping all the one-piece bodysuits. She knows she's helping babies. I think it's so important to teach kids how easy it is to donate and how fulfilling it is.”
21, Crete, Nebraska; mom to daughter Alyssia, 12 months
Why she rocks: She regained her footing as a single mom and found time to go to work, school and feed the homeless.
Her story: When Tishara Osbey became pregnant her sophomore year of college, she was faced with personal and financial struggles. Thanks to a school adviser who went out of her way to help Tishara and her new baby, she was encouraged to get back on track. “If she wasn't going to give up on me, I knew I couldn't give up on myself either,” says Tishara.
The single mom then focused on re-enrolling for the fall semester. She also started a job, but wanted to help people too. The local soup kitchen didn't need more volunteers, so using her own money, Tishara began bagging lunches and driving 50 miles round trip to downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, to give food to the homeless every week.
She hopes to one day open a homeless shelter, but in the meantime, Tishara's working on a sociology degree and raising Alyssia. “I plan to teach her through example and involvement in things I do.”
24, Spring Hill, Florida; mom to daughter MaKayla, 6 months
Why she rocks: Come March, the new mom will deploy to Afghanistan for 12 months, where she'll serve as a mechanic for the Black Hawk helicopters used for patrol, transportation and flight training.
Her story: While serving in the National Guard since 2003, Cari Childers did a tour in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, where for four of those months she flew as a door gunner. (Yep, you read that right — she aimed and fired arms from a helicopter.) Cari admits it wasn't difficult being away from home during her previous tour because she wasn't married or a mother. This time will be a challenge. “It's especially hard for a mom missing your child's milestones,” she says.
Cari credits her husband, Kyle, a stay-at-home father, for supporting her career. While it might be difficult to be away, Cari knows her work is helping to create a good life for her family. “There's nothing better than what I do.”
First lady Michelle Obama launched an initiative encouraging all Americans to find ways to help support the families of those who serve in the Armed Forces. For more on Strengthening Our Military Families, go to serve.gov.
Rachel Meiring/Kdog photographers
27, Blue Springs, missouri; mom to son Austin, 6, and daughter Kenadie, 4
Why she rocks: She volunteered as a gestational carrier for her cousin and then pumped breast milk for the baby.
Her story: After a decade of trying to conceive, including several rounds of in vitro fertilization attempts, Monika Ogilvie (pictured, left) and her husband had nearly given up hope of having a biological child. That is, until Monika's cousin, Brooke Scollin (pictured, right), offered to be her gestational carrier. “My kids are my life, and I can't imagine trying for 10 years and not getting anything in the end,” Brooke says.
In January 2010, Brooke underwent an embryo transfer resulting in a pregnancy after the first try. Brooke welcomed Monika at doctors' appointments and ultrasounds so she could enjoy each step of the baby's growth. “The experience was amazing,” says Monika. “I got to go to every appointment and feel the baby kick for the first time on Mother's Day. I don't feel like I missed anything.”
When Brooke gave birth last October to a healthy baby girl named Olivia, she went on to pump breast milk for four months while working. Naturally, the experience brought the cousins closer. “We are 10 years apart, so we weren't always close,” says Brooke, “but now Monika is like a sister to me. I don't remember what my life was like without having her in it every day.”