Fabulous Mother of the Year Top 20 Finalists
Stay tuned for 2012 information. We invite you to meet the 2011 Fabulous Mother of the Year Finalists!
Nancy McPhee – Airdrie
Nancy is a Mom to everyone from her biological son, three adopted children and two foster children to
all of her children’s friends from school and countless other homeless children. She supports the dreams
of all her children including getting her daughter to Disneyland through the Dream's Take Flight program
and helping her youngest autistic son start a charity called Stephen’s Back Packs to end homelessness.
Nancy has written a book, and in the last five years has touched over 12,000 children with Stephens
Back Packs giving goodie packages to “The Inn from the Cold”, Sundre/Airdrie Lioness Hampers, Airdrie
and Red Deer Food Banks, Pikani and Siksika First Nations Groups, McMann Youth. She has also donated
1500 pairs of shoes to needing families, sent emergency bags of clothing and water for "Hugs to Haiti,”
and worked with God's Littlest Angels to send emergency crates with tents, work gloves for men to help
pull people out and rebuild Haiti.
Aisling Gamble – Calgary
Aisling is a hockey mom and mother of soon-to-be six-year old triplets. While pregnant, Aisling was
determined to do whatever was necessary to have 3 healthy babies, despite her 4ft10” frame. A long
journey to bringing her boys in to the world, she was hospitalized for the final 7 weeks before the boys
arrived at 35 weeks gestation, a full 3 weeks longer than the average triplet pregnancy. Post-delivery,
Aisling developed severe health complications and had to fight for her life. She is now a full-time
working mother who makes sure her children never go without, are loved and are self-confident.
Candice Bent – Calgary
Candice was a teenage mother at 17 years of age. Right from the start, she was expected to fail. She
proved them wrong, graduating from both high school and college with honours while she was raising
her daughter as a single mother. Candace played both roles of mother and father at a very early age
and excelled at it, effortlessly. Putting her daughter before herself, Candace ensured she had the best
life possible and taught her to see the best in everything and everyone, even when times are tough.
Candace suffered from depression for several years and now shares her journey through depression
in her blog www.reactivecandy.com as an advocate and to help change the stigma attached to mental
Elizabeth Young – Lac La Biche
While finishing her degree in social work, Elizabeth works casual at a women's shelter and as a full-time student advocacy counselor at the local high school. While overcoming personal/intimate losses she continues to advocate for and empower others struggling with adversity. Despite having experienced the break-up of her marriage, she supported the emotional wellness of her two children, impacted by many changes and added loss of their close cousin, grandmother, and friend. Elizabeth is grateful, putting one foot in front of the other and is unconditionally “there” for everyone who crosses her path. She co-initiated 'Take Back the Night Walk' to raise awareness of the effects of family violence. Elizabeth was a committee member which spearheaded the local 'Restorative Justice Committee' and was a member of the Coalition Against Human Trafficking Committee, now taking a break from both due to a heavy schedule. Elizabeth currently sits on the on the Victim Service Board and school Mentorship Committee.
Julie Chandler – Calgary
Julie homeschools her two children and runs a successful women's business organization called PGIBW
that brings business women together to learn, grow and network. Julie also found time to write two
books, the first book "Successful Women Entrepreneurs" is about encouraging women by sharing the
triumphs and tribulations of women in business. Her second book, “Orphans and the Fatherless,”
highlights families in the foster system and is a fundraising tool to assist parents who are adopting to
raise money and awareness. Julie is also looking to do public speaking on the topic of orphans, foster
care and adoption so that she can bring more attention to this cause.
Amanda Shewchuk – Whitecourt
At only 18 years of age, Amanda’s second child was born with Trisomy 18 and wasn't expected to live.
While doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy, she nourished her baby in utero for as long as he
would stay with her, deciding that she would deal with whatever the outcome was. Baby Nolan survived
his birth and lived for 19 months. Despite Nolan’s severe health challenges, Amanda tried to bring joy
to his life by taking him swimming, to the park and many other places a normal child would go. Knowing
his time was limited, every month Amanda held a birthday for Nolan to celebrate his life and strength.
Since Nolan’s passing, Amanda has become an advocate for children with Trisomy 18, uniting like
mothers online and through her blog, creating a web of support and awareness for families of children
with this chromosomal defect.
Katherine Lomax - Edmonton
Being a mother is everything to Katherine, but it did not come easy. She would become pregnant
and then miscarry. Or worse, delivering her first set of twins still-born. After her first child, now 11,
Katherine set up a nursery in her store to keep her close. Three years later and rounds of in vitro
fertilization, she became pregnant again with another set of twins, now 7. The twins were born at
twenty-six weeks and had severe health complications. Already a busy entrepreneur, Katherine set
up shop in the NICU for six months tending to her business while trying to keep her baby girls alive,
advocating and loving. Katherine’s business continues to thrive, and she has been named one of Avenue
Magazine’s Top 40 under 40, as well as Planner of Year (awarded by Meeting Professionals International,
Edmonton Chapter). Her company has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Stollery and
other causes and is a speaker at the NICU, speaking to both staff and parents about her story.
Christy Marchuk - Red Deer County
Christy wanted to be a mother long before she ever was one, as she battled the heartbreak of
infertility. Five kids later, her husband realized they were completely out-numbered and finally said
enough! Christy is very, very busy making sure her children get what they need individually and
supporting their dreams. Even when funds are low, Christy fundraises to make their dreams come
true. The proof of her incredible mothering is seen in her children's excellence. Her eldest son is a
Karate champion and Sensei at only 16 years of age. Her other son is following quickly in his brother's
footsteps winning gold medals in every tournament. Christy also takes Karate as a way to spend more
time with her children, winning gold medals in her category. One of her daughters, at only 7 years
of age, engaged the whole community to raise thousands of dollars for Stars Air Ambulance because
they "saved her Grandpa,” and has also won several medals in dance. And the other two children are
active in gymnastics and equestrian riding. Christy is an active community volunteer and is also part of
the sandwich generation, often helping her senior parents.
Deb Walton – Calgary
As a very young mother, Deb escaped a bad marriage to build a safe and loving home for her two
children on her own. Beyond the usual, Deb encountered many challenges as a single parent, battling
doctors and red tape, researching illnesses and treatments, the side effects of medications and surgical
procedures to ensure her children got exactly what they needed to get better. Deb continued to be a
fighter, single-handedly taking on the unforgiving school system when her children did not fit into "the
norms" of what the education system was designed to provide. She fought hard to make sure they
got the education they needed and both went on to post-secondary schools, brilliant careers and
beautiful families of their own. Deb's style of parenting is tough love. She leads by example, gives
unconditional love, picks her battles, doesn't back down and has mastered the art of and/or careful
balance of the "iron fist inside the velvet glove." Deb has an amazing way with "tough" or "troubled"
kids. Be it family or friends, she takes them under her wing, helps them navigate the world and learn to
fly. Deb has also blazed the trail in the corporate world for all the women who have been lucky enough
to come after her. Even as a single mother, she rose through the ranks in male dominated industries in
companies and was often the first and only female executive to reach that level.
Eunice Tiedemann – Edmonton
Eunice’s life motto is “never give up.” When her grandson was diagnosed with a rare medical condition
and almost died twice from it, Eunice was there acting as a backstop to her daughter’s family in crisis.
While her daughter lived at the Stollery Hospital in Edmonton for weeks at a time, during the night
Eunice would hold down the fort at home, caring for her granddaughter at home, cleaning and cooking.
During the day, she would go to the hospital to spend countless hours holding her grandson, rocking
him, soothing him, and helping to get him to eat. During this time, she gave her daughter hope and
comfort in a world of darkness. After her grandson recovered two years later, Eunice’s husband was
diagnosed with cancer and she took care of him day and night, actually injuring herself requiring surgery
to repair the damage she did to her body. To make matters worse, her daughter was also in and out
of the hospital for what they thought was liver cancer. She took care of her daughter, her husband, all
her grandchildren and continued cleaning the church all the while being sick herself with breast cancer
and not telling any of them.
Lee Horbachewski – Calgary
Lee is an entrepreneur and advocate with ongoing attention to work life balance, designed to maximize
time with her children. She has survived depression and suicide and kept on living to create a fabulous
life for herself, two young daughters and husband. Lee is not afraid to talk about issues most people
avoid. She provides a shining example to her daughters in her constant pursuit of “paying it forward,”
bringing the community hope and empowerment, and supporting countless local charities, children's
programs, community services and collegial events. Lee is a connector and champion, making incredible
use of social media to spread joy and hope through her blogs, ezines, Facebook and Twitter. When Lee’s
terminally ill friend said her dying wish was to have Michael Buble sing a song to her, Lee immediately
took action and in just 24 hours was able to make Sandra's dying wish come true. Lee is helping her
daughters through the grief of losing Sandra - embracing the beauty of dying, and the power of true
friendship. The purposeful way Lee lives her life, teaches her children that miracles do happen, to
believe in the power of love, and how an “ask” can change a life. Lee teaches her daughters and others
to be authentic and real, and to make a difference in the world.
Pam Henheffer – High River
Pam’s neighbours describe her as wonder woman. Pam has not only raised four very educated children
of her own, she also was a hands-on foster parent for juvenile delinquent boys and underprivileged
boys and girls, and is now a hands-on grandmother of ten. She is also an advocate and educator for the
Fetal Alcohol Society raising community awareness about alcohol effects on unborn babies and drug
addiction. For years, Pam would drive an hour to work at the Stampede Ranch that her father founded,
to help juvenile delinquent boys. It was there, she took troubled children under her wing and couldn’t
help but even foster some of them.
Quinn Page – Turner Valley
At the age of 15, Quinn was in a vehicular accident and became a paraplegic. Since then, she took her
situation in life and used it to become a role model to youth and adults becoming an active public
speaker, advocate, and passionate community-minded young leader for the past 14 years. Quinn is a
caring step-mom to two young boys who have faced adversity. She has specifically benefited their lives
by her role modeling of love and learning, creating an empowering and positive environment. Also a
new mom, she is devotedly in love with her very big, cute boy who has just turned 1, while overcoming
new challenges with car seats, strollers, and busy toddlerhood of her son - hard enough for anyone able
to run to keep up, and she is learning to do it all from her wheelchair. Most recently, Quinn performed
a riveting act in the most recent Vagina Monologues in Calgary about her experience as a woman
impacted by spinal cord injury.
Alison Mitchell – Calgary
Alison raised two boys as a single mother after her husband left when her son was diagnosed with
Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 8. Alison struggled to find care for her son while she worked as a
nurse during the day. At night would do “another shift of nursing” to take care of him. To this day,
Alison has neck and back injuries from having to lift and transfer her son as he grew into adulthood.
Sadly, he passed away at the age of 30. Alison also acted as an advocate for her other son, and was
certainly a force to be reckoned with when he needed additional supports in school that were outside of
standard school system offerings. Always putting the needs of her children before her own, Alison had
to find ways to nurture other son, who has now grown into a man who laughs easily, likes to travel and
appreciates the wonders of the world. Alison has been very active in the wheel chair hockey community
when her ailing son was a player in the league. She stills goes to see some of their games even though
he is no longer there.
Janica Fisher – Calgary
While Janica suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, she does more in one day
than most healthy people do in a week. Janica runs a non-profit company called HIP, which stands
for Humanity In Practice and is about "simply making a difference." HIP helps other non-profit
organizations with things they don't often have enough funding for, including such things as, the "Make
and Take" craft program and Bubble Gum Betty program at the Mary Dover house. HIP also runs the
program “Parties with a Purpose” supporting the YWCA, The Alex Community Health Bus, Further
Education Society, Calgary Humane Society, Louise Dean School, and Calgary Senior's Resource Society.
Between working full time hours and raising two children, Janica manages to keep it all organized. Her
children describe Janica as selfless, and she has taught them that having money means nothing if you're
not happy. She leads by example in inspiring her children to do things only if their heart is in it and if it’s
the right thing to do, not simply what they can make a profit from.
Loretta Paglinawan - Airdrie
Loretta works two jobs to support her family and is a second “mom” to all of her children’s friends. She
is loving and caring to everyone, no matter whom they are and has an overwhelming desire to make
everyone around her twice as happy as herself. Loretta plays on a women’s soccer team as a player and
team manager. She is loyal to her children, work and soccer team, always being the one person anyone
can count on. Loretta has taught her children to do everything from their heart, not out of duty.
When her mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago, Loretta hated not being able
to do anything so she decided to start fundraising for the Walk for Woman's Cancer with the goal of
raising $10,000 for the cause. Adding to the millions of things she does every day, Loretta has been very
successful so far, even raising $1000 dollars the first day!
Tammy Macdonald – Lacombe
Big-hearted and extremely compassionate, Tammy has many life challenges and takes it all in stride.
While living with Multiple Sclerosis, Tammy works full time and looks after her household and children
while her fiancé works away. A busy mom, Tammy still finds the time to manage the day-to-day care
of her aunt with small cell lung carcinoma cancer and has done so for the past three years. When
managing the incredibly turbulent times of her teenage children, Tammy handled each situation as it
arose with nothing but patience, determination and grace. She empowers her children to tell the truth,
and encourages them to be individuals with the ability to grow, do and be whatever they want to in life.
Melissa Vroon – Calgary
Melissa is a mover and shaker in Calgary. She is a social media maven, blogger and the go-to resource
for moms in the city looking for great things to do with their children. After being frustrated with
scouring what seemed like an endless mish-mash of bits and pieces of information on family recreation
around the city, Melissa and her friend started the website www.familyfuncalgary.com to create a one
stop source of community events and activities for Calgary families. Combining work with parenting,
Melissa’s unfailing dedication to both proves that they are not mutually exclusive. As she roars through
the city with kids in tow to attend yet another special event that she can share with her children,
families around the city benefit from her first-hand experience. Whether a new mom or simply new to
the city, Melissa has successfully engaged a whole city of moms, helping them combat the inanities of
raising children through fun and humour.
Valmarie LaRocke – Okotoks
Val has a soft spot for kids, especially when it comes to kids who need help and good old fashioned
mothering. She had five girls of her own and has fostered 15 others, many with severe fetal alcohol
syndrome and mental disorders from years of abuse or neglect. At one point, Val had nine kids at home
at once and was about to take in another when her daughter questioned, “Mom, what are doing? You
can’t save them all.” And she replied, “No, but I can save them one at a time. And they’ll never be hurt
again.” Val never made the distinction between her biological kids and her foster kids, they were all just
hers. Working full-time to make ends meet, she would come to cook, clean, do homework and endless
other tasks to the point that her feet and ankles would swell and she couldn’t walk. Still, she would
never have it any other way. She continues to mother them and now their children, who she claims as
her own grandchildren. Val is currently raising money to build a park for children with disabilities.
Lois McWhirter - Airdrie
Lois was married for almost 30 years when unforeseen circumstances changed her whole way of life. Suddenly she was on her own, with a large house to manage, a broken leg and not much help. Instead of letting the stress of her situation get to her, she made some difficult decisions and kept moving her life forward. She retired from her job of 25 years, sold the house and picked up her life to move to Calgary just so she could be closer to her grandchildren and be a part of their lives. To talk with her you wouldn't know the suffering she went through. She has kept her sense of humour and her ability to see the good in all people. Lois taught her children and now grandchildren to figure out what you love to do and do it, not making it about money or power, just do what you love everyday of your life. Lois lives in a complex with many seniors and volunteers her time on various committees to plan social activities.