Inspiring Stories from You — Moms + Mentors
In honor of Mother's Day, we held a contest on Instagram. It was simple enough — nominate a mom, mentor, or essential worker to win products for an at-home spa day. Entrants simply told us the name of their nominee and why they were nominating them. Since moms are magic, we expected to be touched by the responses, but seriously — we were floored.
Each and every one of your nominations (over 1,200!) was well-deserving of celebration, love, and certainly an at-home spa day. While we couldn't choose everyone, we wanted to share the incredibly moving stories from our winning nominations.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everyone who took the time to submit their story.
A vow to the future of her children
My mother, Leakhena, was born in the small Cambodian village of Takeo near the capital of Phnom Penh. My mother came from a family of ten, and was among the millions of Cambodians who survived the Cambodian genocide from 1975 - 1979. After the fall of the oppressive dictatorship of Pol Pot, my mother sought refuge in France, where my three sisters and I were born. Although I was very young at the time, my earliest memories are of my mom taking on various labor-intensive jobs, such as sewing on bra straps, just to make ends meet for our family. My mom struggled to secure stable jobs because of her limited knowledge of the French language and her lack of formal education. Despite the numerous barriers, my mom vowed to never let anything hinder the future of her children. She instilled in us the values of education, social justice, and community. In 1997, she moved our family to America in search of better opportunities. In the United States, my mother worked strenuous hours as a janitor and was often discriminated against because of her ethnicity and inability to speak English fluently. There is not a single day that I do not look back and appreciate all that my mom has sacrificed in order to ensure that my sisters and I would have the brightest of futures.
Today, my three sisters work abroad as U.S. diplomats for the State Department promoting U.S. policies abroad and working on human rights issues. I graduated from Harvard University and am now founding my own startup dedicated to making the world a more inclusive place through social media and travel. Having a mother and role model with such strength, resilience, and perseverance, my siblings and I have come to see that very few things in this world are impossible. We are eternally grateful and would not be who we are without my mother - our biggest motivator.
Brave + big-hearted hospice nurse
My mama is the the strongest women I know. She left an abusive marriage after 16 years and drove from Utah in a truck with a U-Haul all by herself to Texas to live near me. She is the best Hospice Nurse with the biggest heart and is always smiling and willing to serve others despite what what she is going through. I am so proud of my mama for being brave and feel she deserves nothing but good things in life.
Going above and beyond
My mom, Juliet, has been a nurse for over 35 years, and currently works at a nursing home with COVID-19 patients. In the beginning, her and her coworkers did not have the proper PPE. Eventually she and her coworkers advocated for themselves and received PPE, but still have to reuse most of it. Despite it all, my mom shows up to work every day with a smile on her face ready to care and advocate for her patients without hesitation or complaint. I have even seen her take work calls in the middle of the night and offer to come into work on her days off. Instead of retiring this year, she decided to stay on and help fight the pandemic for however long it takes. She truly goes above and beyond for her patients and fellow nurses! She is the most selfless person I know. She is the reason my sister and I became nurses. I am nominating her to try to show her some appreciation.
Strong mama + daughter duo
Katie is my son's amazing 3rd grade teacher. She has gone above and beyond in supporting students especially in a challenging time and world of remote learning. Katie personally called and spoke to each student in her two classes when the news was announced that students wouldn't be returning after Spring Break. She has a big heart for all of her students, and she works to grow them into their best versions of themselves while in her classroom (vs. trying to change who they are at their core). Unfortunately, Katie received even more difficult news that her 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia two weeks ago. Her daughter, Adeline's, diagnosis was a complete shock to her and her family. Adeline was released from the hospital earlier this week after Katie and her stayed away from family for a little over 10 days as she started her treatment in-patient. Adeline is receiving chemotherapy and fighting hard. Katie is truly trying to balance it all. I know that an at home spa care package will bring much needed joy and relaxation to Katie.
Planning her wedding — while treating COVID-19 patients
I’d like to nominate my daughter Bianca because she works hard day in and day out at her hospital. Her unit is the designated COVID unit that holds all of the coronavirus patients so she is always being exposed. She has also floated to ICU and ER to help covid patients when they are busy. She comes home with bruises and indents on her face for wearing an N95 mask for 12 hours a day. I worry about her constantly while she is at work and have asked her to call off but she is dedicated and committed to helping patients recover and return to their families. She passed along messages to her patients whether they could hear her or not. She told me a story of an older couple in the ICU, a 102 year old male and 89 year old woman. Married. Both with covid. After 2 weeks of treatment, and a decline in their statuses, their daughter made them DNR. Both were extubated to die together. The nursing team put the couples hands together while they passed away. This is just one of the many examples of how beautiful and empathetic nurses can be. She is a positive light not only to her family but also to the people she takes care of at work. On her days off she homeschools her 6 year old son. And all while doing this she is also trying to stay positive and plan her upcoming wedding which she is hopeful will still be in October. Her passion and dedication to helping others makes her deserve this giveaway.
A mother on the front lines
She is the amazing mother to our two beautiful children but she is also a frontline worker. She is a speech therapist working in a nursing home. She goes above and beyond for all of her residents who cannot see their families right now by FaceTiming and creating inspirational collages and coming up with activities and games. Then she comes home from all of that to homeschool our daughter. This year Mother’s Day is also her birthday and I can’t think of anything better to honor this wonderful woman. My own mother passed away this year (her mother in law) and she was my rock and now it’s her turn for someone to take care of her.
The mama feeding a hospital
I would like to nominate my mom, Dale (she doesn’t have an Instagram.) She works at a hospital in the kitchen, ensuring all the patients are fed and healthy. And although her work environment has changed drastically amidst COVID-19, she goes to work with a smile and feels more fortunate than ever to have a job that supports those in-need. It breaks my heart knowing she could be putting her own health and life at risk but I commend her dedication to her patients. I love you mom — you light up every room you walk into.
A well-deserved spa day
My mom came to America at age 33. She bussed in restaurants for minimum wage for about a year and half while going to medical school. She learned English through conversing with restaurant patrons and took additional classes after full day shifts. In just 8 months, she got accepted into an accelerated program at Columbia medical university. Since then, she has published several times in medical journals, earned an MBA, and started a fellowship at Columbia. And, oh yeah, single-handed raised a daughter, put her through private school, college, and supported her creative career. My mom instilled a sense of hard work, grit, and optimism in me, but also a sense of love and selflessness that has inspired how I want to eventually raise my kids. She lives in NYC still and I live in California now. This mother's day, I was planning to take her out for a full mother-daughter spa day, but couldn't due to the pandemic. She is currently by herself quarantined in New York, and I would so appreciate any sense of comfort we can send her to acknowledge the wonderful human she is.
The glue in her family
Laura is the epicenter of her family, the glue that gathers everyone for the holidays. She feeds everyone and shares her kindness and fervor for self care with women in a Texas Prison, teaching them how to write and examine their feelings and selves. Laura extends her kindness and care to anyone she meets. She’s caring for her elderly mother right now, which has put a strain on many aspects of her life. She deserves some extra self care. milk + honey is her favorite spa and she just ran out of her favorite products. This would be a great way to say thank you for all that she gives to not only her own family but also to each person she cares for in the Texan community.
The selfless gift-giver
I have always known my mom is the most selfless, caring and giving person I know. However, during this crisis, my mom has really shown what true care for others looks like. She is an insurance agent however, she goes above and beyond her job role to provide for her customers. She translates important COVID-19 information to those who do not speak English and ensures those who need aid the most receive the care and assistance they need, no matter what it takes. She hunts for hand sanitizers online regularly to hand out to friends/neighbors, calls those she knows who are living alone during this quarantine to offer companionship, and delivers homemade lemon tea (an immune system booster) to family. She's amazed me with her selfless heart and I would love it if she could receive some extra love.
The mentor with an inspiring spirit
I am nominating, Dana, a co-worker for mine who is a Mother of two fantastic boys and three dogs. When I first started in my position as a young female in a male dominated company, she did not hesitate to welcome me and unknowingly became one of my mentors. She is always a positive spirit in the office, often called the Momma of the group because she is constantly taking care of everyone, bringing in food, and helping others with work related questions. I am in total awe of her because she is an incredibly intelligent engineer who is very respected in the company but never belittles people or acts as if she is better than anyone. This past year, she took in a German exchange student who she treated like her own - taking him to soccer games, paddle boarding, and hiking. If you're around Dana, she just makes you feel special. I have no family here and a small circle of friends, and I am so grateful to have a friendship with Dana because she's helped me become more confident in my job role, more positive with my outlook in life, and continues to motivate me to better myself. I hope she can feel extra special on Mother's Day.
The rock for her family — and community
My wife demonstrates on a daily basis the characteristics I believe are required for her to receive this award. Even though her Army career was cut short due to injuries and has had to endure 41 surgeries since her medical retirement, she does not let that deter her from helping others. After letting her body heal from all those surgeries and even though she has a 100% disability rating, Brook decided not to sit at home and despair about her ailments but goes out there to try to make the world a better place. Growing up on and off the streets, under highway bridges and in homeless shelters due to a drug addict mother who was a prostitute until her aunt adopted her at 11 taught Brook the skills needed to survive. She knows what it takes to endure and what is needed to help others in those situations. She knows what abuse is. She has not only endured it but has seen it as well. Her stories of her childhood are horrendous and to think she came out of it wanting to help others is remarkable. From being burned with cigarettes, fishing in trash cans for food, begging at drive thru windows, weighing 56 pounds when her Aunt adopted her from being malnourished, to being hit with high heels by her alcoholic grandmother to more, she is simply remarkable for surviving.
After being attacked and kidnapped by a neighbor over a 3-day period in Fort Hood in 2002 who received a 20-year prison sentence, my wife still chose to help others instead of letting fear get the best of her. She has had a tough life and most people in her shoes would choose to go down a bad path, but she did not. She possesses the determination and ambition any of her future pursuits may require. Her perseverance towards a goal and work ethic to see such goals accomplished are traits that I believe speak of her character and in which have been taken noticed by so many in Stark County.
Brook has displayed qualities deserving of this award through the active role she takes within her community. Her dedication to excellence is clearly shown by the multiplicity of successful projects she has taken on as well as a variety of organizations which seek her skills. For example, out of the entire state of Ohio, Congressman Renacci asked for her to be the co-chair of his Veterans Coalition as did State Senator Frank LaRose for his Secretary of State Veteran Council. She has been asked by several elected officials such as Congressman Gonzalez and Gibbs and/or candidates on both sides of the aisle to sit on several veteran roundtables who sought her counsel regarding veteran issues. When the executive director of the SAM (Serving Area Military) Center retired and in her retirement letter submitted Brook’s name as her replacement due to her love and passion for veterans, active duty, widows and military family members as well as for her hard work and dedication in getting things done and expanding the Center to helping those veterans in need. She is now the Vice President of the Center which is all on a volunteer basis. The Facilitator of the Women’s InterBusiness Network in Stark County asked to partner with her in facilitating the group which she has since taken over since her retirement to help network businesswomen with a common goal in mind: helping others. Whether she’s giving a motivational speech for veterans to Stark State College or the city of Massillon on Memorial Day, local non-profit organizations, businesses or to a Veterans group, most are in tears regarding her story of perseverance and overcoming adversity. The Girls Scouts of America requested her for their annual lunch to give a speech because she is so motivating for young girls. Several elected officials and business leaders gave referrals for her for exclusive leadership programs she was selected for out of hundreds of candidates. Secretary of State Elect Frank LaRose and State Representative Elect Bill Roemer have personally asked to write her recommendations when needed as they are both so moved by all she does without her ever asking for anything in return.
My wife is an accomplished individual from meaningful community volunteerism to raising our 3 boys: ages 2, 4 and 16. Her work ethic and drive for excellence are evident in everything she does and has done. She not only possesses the drive but the passion to help others. This is a characteristic not easily taught; nevertheless, it is central to who she is. Brook’s interest in her community shows good citizenship and forward thinking. She works daily in volunteering and that is what she always feels has been her calling. She is not only on several boards throughout Stark County but feels it is important to volunteer for those organizations as well. She often tells me her volunteer work is her career and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Brook works to be present in every situation she feels she can make a meaningful difference with her volunteerism especially as it relates to serving our veteran population. She exhibits great desire to learn and an ample ability when it comes to applying knowledge gained. Brook has taken obstacles thrown at her by being diligent about working to change those circumstances for others from testifying in front of the State House committee regarding Veterans Service Organizations she was personally asked to do by the Executive Director of the Veteran Service Commission to starting the annual Stark County Veterans Stand Down (which helped 1300 veterans as well as gave 228 Vietnam Veterans their service pins) to helping veterans with assistance in everything from housing, food, VA claims to financial advice, ID cards, flu shots and more. She sits on the Stark County Veteran Task Force to help solve the veteran homelessness problem. She fought for the local VA clinic to install Koala changing stations as she saw the need that wasn’t fulfilled. My wife advocated to have VA clinics in Ohio receive 3-day emergency food bags to help veterans which has now expanded to 10 clinics along with Wade Park Hospital. I believe my wife should be considered for this award because she is a tireless advocate for causes in our community, she deems worthy of her time and service. I don’t know many other people who does all she does daily and all for free. She never takes a paycheck yet pays to ensure veterans in need get what they need. Brook always makes time for her family and is always there to support our oldest whether in his Canton Youth Symphony performances, jazz band performances, Football games or Wrestling matches. People are constantly writing her, messaging her, emailing her and posting about what she does for them and thanking her for what she does. Not only is she on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross but is also a member of the Disaster Action Team and a caseworker for Services to Armed Forces providing invaluable services as well as helping families connect during times of personal and family crisis as she personally had dealt with them when she was attacked in Texas. Brook is the Literacy Committee Chairperson for Ohio with 1st lady Fran DeWine developing and recommending policies related to the promotion of literacy; to develop and encourage the development of programs, educational opportunities and other resources; to raise the awareness of literacy and to encourage younger generations about the importance of Literacy.
My wife has never let learning be put on the back burner either and continues to look for programs to continue her education in a variety of areas. She was in the Stark County Signature Program, the Stark County Government Leadership Academy, Stark County Citizen Police Academy, Grassroots Leadership Academy 1 and 2, University of Mary-Hardin Baylor (degrees in History and English), and Central Texas College.
I wish I had her strength. I could go on and on about what she has done for our community as can others who always offer to write her recommendations. I know I am limited to how much I can submit but I wish I could submit every article written about her, social media websites that have posted about her, snapshot photos of every thank you card and messages and more. I hope I have enclosed what is needed for recommending her for this award as I got her bio off her laptop. People often ask how she does all that she does? They comment how our oldest is a testament to her teachings and upbringing of him with his achievements. Even though she is in daily pain, all she wants to do is see what more she can do to help others. She is remarkable, and I am in constant awe of her. What is even more remarkable is she tells me she feels she isn’t doing enough. Her volunteering isn’t even limited to what is on her bio but she will volunteer to usher at the Palace or the Civic Center, visit pantries weekly, volunteer to help serve at Pancake Breakfasts or Taste of Plain, pick up can goods for food drives, get 24 Xmas gifts for the Women Veterans Nursing Home in Sandusky, pick up people who don’t have cars, run the Strings Program at school, annual bake sale and more. The list truly goes on and on. I know I am not remembering all that she does. I remember how excited she was she helped organize the Veterans Day program for the North Canton Chamber by getting the Flags of Freedom to bring 50 flags, personally inviting 45 of the 68 attendees and lining up one of the speakers. I don’t know how she does it with not feeling well. Her last surgery being the 2nd one this year, 3 high risk pregnancies resulting in problematic C-sections and our last child born with physical deformities, she always has a smile on her face regardless of her physical pain. She doesn’t like to see or hear when people have gone through similar experiences like what she did as a child, in the military or even after when she was attacked. She didn’t let people deter her when they tell her she can’t do something, or she won’t be able to get something done. She recently got elected as Plain Township Trustee being the 2nd woman ever elected. She did not do it for the money but she saw a need that she could fulfill from a woman’s perspective and even only took half the pay to contribute the other half to the Parks Dept and turned down the medical benefits to put that back in the general fund. She always says she is happiest when she can help someone get on their feet. She says I am her rock, but I think it is the other way around. She is mine and I am proud to call her my wife.