In honor of Mother’s Day, Washington FAMILY Magazine’s May issue is dedicated to celebrating the unique contributions of 12 area mothers, selected by its readers as “Moms of the Year.”
“Moms are not recognized nearly enough for all their hard work,” said Sylvia Witaschek, the magazine’s associate publisher. “We are thrilled to be highlighting these local moms and their accomplishments.”
The Moms of the Year share parenting advice, future goals, favorite mom moments and other insights in the May issue of Washington FAMILY, available at these locations and online. The magazine will also honor the women at a May 5 reception in Arlington.
The honorees were nominated by their spouses, children, neighbors and coworkers for their commitment to their families, as well as for how they inspire others around them. Sonia Akpa’s husband wanted readers to know about his wife’s efforts to renovate a playground in a low-income neighborhood near her home in Alexandria, as well as her work organizing a young adult volunteer program.
Like Akpa, many of the women are active volunteers in their communities. Fellow Alexandria resident Jennifer Kenealy’s passion for literacy and education led her to found Alexandria Book Shelf, a local nonprofit that collects and distributes books to needy children and their families. Charity Furness of Warrenton is the executive director of a local food pantry and started a weekend backpack program that distributes food to children at risk of hunger when they don’t have access to school lunch programs. Lily Yeh of Vienna created the company Little Loving Hands, which provides craft kits for children to make and then donate to local charities.
In addition to giving back to their communities, all of these women know the importance of supporting each other through the journey of motherhood. Rebecca Geller of Fairfax Station uses her skills as a lawyer to advocate for family-friendly workplaces, and leads by example as managing partner of her own firm. She organized the coalition last year that successfully lobbied the Virginia legislature to change the law allowing women to legally breastfeed in public. Jill DeLorenzo of Ashburn was also instrumental in that fight, and helps other breastfeeding moms as a La Leche League leader and through her website, positivebreastfeeding.com. Denise Stern of Bristow is the president of Let Mommy Sleep and Mission Sleep, which provides parents of newborns with overnight relief and educational programs. Mission Sleep offers these services to military families and first responders free of charge.
Several of the moms have shown amazing fortitude when faced with devastating health diagnoses. Toula Mitrakas of Ashburn was nominated by her daughter to recognize her tireless work raising two children as a single mother, as well as her strength and positive attitude during her recent battle with breast cancer. Ellyn Miller of Leesburg lost her daughter, Gabriella, to brain cancer, but Gabriella’s courageous fight inspires Ellyn’s work as a children’s cancer advocate. She runs the Smashing Walnuts Foundation and lobbies to maintain funding for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act. Kelly Blumenthal’s 1-year-old son was born with congenital heart disease (CHD). Through the Stafford mom’s Facebook page, “Prayers for Finn,” she raises awareness and advocates for financial support and donations for other CHD patients and their families.
Like all mothers, these women juggle the challenges of raising kids while pursuing their passions and somehow finding the hours in the day to get it all done. Maureen McCrae of Potomac Falls owns a competitive gymnastics studio, and is also the full-time operations manager at the Loudoun School for the Gifted. Danielle Larkins of Vienna has appeared on a local TV parenting forum, writes about motherhood for local publications and runs a successful mom blog, www. typedblog.com.
Washington FAMILY Magazine is published monthly and available for free at more than 2,000 locations around the Washington area. It’s owned by Northern Virginia Media Services, which also publishes six local newspapers and InsideNoVa.com.
Written by Debbie Williams