By Laura J. Cummings
“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” – Barbara Kingsolver
A mother’s soothing voice and joyful countenance define our orientation into this complex and often crazy world. A good mother’s presence in one’s youth offers stability, structure and encouragement to grow. We may often hear our mother’s advice well into adulthood, reminding us of core truths and values.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Estero Life Magazine set out recognize some outstanding local moms. We asked our Facebook followers and EsteroLifeMagazine.com readers to make nominations for our first Mom of the Year award. Here, we present the three finalists.
The winning mom will receive a gift package from our generous sponsors including a makeover and fashion photo shoot. Fashions will be provided by Allie’s Boutique in Bonita Springs. Beehive Beauty Company, at University Village Shops, will provide a fresh look with hair styling and makeup. The Mom of the Year also will receive lunch compliments of Divieto Ristorante, and a $50 gift certificate to The Pewter Mug North.
Community: The Place at Corkscrew
Amanda Doze, along with her husband, Brian, and son Sawyer, has opened her home and heart to several children as a “host mom” for Better Together, a faith-based organization which aims to keep distressed families together by offering support and preventive services.
To date, Amanda has taken in eight children, usually on very little notice. Most recently, she agreed to host three siblings while managing her own toddler and being 30 weeks pregnant with Baby No. 2 — all while her husband was out of town!
“Amanda cared for these kiddos for a mom that was homeless while she was able to get on her feet and into a place to live with her kids,” explains Iris LaRose, Outreach Director with Better Together. “Amanda provided this mom with a gift of time , came alongside her to provide support, and gave her children a safe place to stay in the meantime.”
A former second grade teacher at Three Oaks Elementary School, Amanda decided to stay home to raise Sawyer, who turns four this month. His new little brother, Maddox, was just born April 11.
“My passion and number one reason for being a teacher was to help children,” says Amanda, adding: “Better Together also has a mission to help children and families.”
Amanda not only provides love, home cooking and homework help to the children, but she also offers support to their moms.
“I’ve talked to moms for hours on the phone,” she says. “Sometimes, I just listen and let them know someone cares.”
Amanda feels the experience is just as valuable for her son, who is learning to share his toys — and sometimes his mom. When three new children came to stay in his home for a season, he invited each of them to pick one of his stuffed animals to sleep with.
“It teaches my son a lot,” says Amanda, the most important of these lessons being compassion and gratitude.
According to 16-year-old Madison Boris, her mother, Ellen, “gave up everything to be a mom.” Madison and her twin brother, Dylan, are homeschooled and have three older half brothers in their 30s.
Ellen’s life has included setbacks and heartaches, but her priority has always been clear: her children. Raising them and watching them flourish is worth every sacrifice, she says.
“She had dreams,” says her only daughter. “She got a record deal, and she gave it all up to raise us. She’s just a very devoted mom.”
The record deal Madison is referencing happened years before she was born. Ellen married young to a man who shared her passion for music and entertaining. Together, along with a Cuban guitarist friend, they formed a band, achieving a contract with Sony’s Epic Records. Unfortunately, the deal fell through, along with the marriage, after her husband not only violated the contract but also swindled Ellen and her family out of thousands of dollars.
“He was a con artist,” she now acknowledges.
Thankfully, she soon met a retired school teacher and principal, her current husband, Michael Boris, who gave her the “greatest gift” — the twins. Like her mother, Madison loves theatre and the arts; she also plans to become a doctor. Meanwhile, Ellen thinks Dylan will be “the next Bill Gates.” He creates his own video games, writes computer code, and enjoys politics.
Tragically, one of Ellen’s older sons, Corey, suffered a near-fatal accident and has needed extensive rehabilitation, so he is again living at home. His devoted mom has been with him through it all while he continues to figure out what’s next.
She also once helped out a family friend who unexpectedly became pregnant at a young age. Ellen watched her baby at no charge for three years.
“I just want the world to see how hard she works,” says Madison. “I don’t think she gets appreciated enough; I don’t think a lot of moms do.”
Community: Bella Terra
Many in the Estero community know of Karin Petrocelli as a survivor, beating the odds for those diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC), which has no cure. Despite the endless treatments, hospital visits and debilitating pain, Karin presses on as a champion for research, hoping to turn MBC into a manageable, chronic condition. She’s founder of the Southwest Florida Metsquerade; the second annual gala was held at Hilton Naples last January.
Few may know the core reason she continues to work so hard: her four daughters.
“They all know I’m doing this for them,” says Karin, “God forbid, if they come down with this when they get older, that there will be medicines for them, and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”
Johanna, Maria, Victoria and Kristina are all in their 20s, pursuing careers as diverse as supporting space exploration with NASA (Johanna) to exploring the healing properties of Cannabidiol (Maria). Meanwhile, Victoria is starting her career as a chef, while the youngest, Kristina, is training to be a paramedic.
“They’re all doing so well, and that’s all you want in life, that they would be nice adults and productive individuals,” says their proud mom.
She is thankful the girls and her supportive husband, Vinny, eagerly help with the Metsquerade: “It’s a family effort.”
Kristina credits her “supermom” for always staying calm during any stressful situation. When the girls were all under the age of 10, Karin singlehandedly took them on a trip to her homeland of Sweden, safely and efficiently navigating the entire journey.
“She always knows how to solve problems and come up with the right solutions,” admires Kristina. “When none of us can figure it out, she usually can, whether it’s finding missing stuff or what to do in a certain situation. She’s very calm and level-headed.”
That has served Karin well as she has navigated through life with MBC for the last seven years — more than double the median survival rate for those diagnosed with MBC.
“It’s incredible to see how the family manages,” says friend and neighbor Bella Altura. “It must be love in this family that keeps this lady alive. She’s suffering, but at the same time, she is making the rest of us feel good. She has just overwhelmed me with the kind of person she is.”
Sawyer Doze shares his toys with two children temporarily living in his family's Estero home