When Northeast Ohio Parent magazine put out a call to readers for nominations of “Parent Heroes,” you answered. These 17 local parents show that if you have the passion and willpower, there is nothing that will stop you. Whether you work full-time or not, you can still raise your family and serve many other roles: volunteer, be a coach, raise awareness, help others in need, foster a passion, and be an example and friend to all. Learn about this year’s Parent Heroes from the words of those who nominated them.
Nominated by Chris Travis
My fiance is not only a great mother of two well-rounded toddlers, she’s also very active in her community. She has taken on the role to help reduce the infant mortality rate in Summit County as a Certified Community Health Worker. She is in the community every day assisting pregnant women and their families, helping them navigate through resources and being a great support. When she’s not in these women’s homes, she is in meetings or sitting at the board meetings brainstorming ways to better assist her clients and the community. I see the stresses of the world on her shoulders sometimes, but she still finds the strength to come home and transform into super mom — making sure that dinner, bath and bedtime stories are made magical.
Nominated by Susan Conrad
I met Tricia when her daughter was enrolled in my classroom at age 3. During that time, Tricia was an invaluable volunteer who helped not only my classroom, but other classrooms, as well. Her children are years older, but she continues to volunteer by helping me, others and the school in any way she can. She is passionate about supporting the children of our school and the community at large. She is an advocate for the city of Cleveland and making the schools and the city a better place.
Melina Arzuaga de Jesus
Nominated by Elizabeth Blank
Melina is a wonderful person. She is our lunch and nap aide, but also has a child at our school. She comes in early to volunteer in the cafeteria and stays late to help with dismissal. All the students love her. She helps the school translate when needed.
Nominated by Pam Frasco
Brea has not only helped to personally support me in my motherhood journey, she has created a safe community where other parents can read her amazing blogs and thoughts on motherhood and being authentic. Her dose of perspective is so refreshing and uplifting, letting us know that we are not alone in parenthood. Her blog “The Thinking Branch” is followed by many and I am proud to call her a good friend and role model. She often works hours upon hours for others and being a full-time mom of three, wife and photographer, she is a superhero.
Nominated by Emily Robinson
Not many moms can say they gave their children life twice, but Traci Tigue is not like many moms. She is the perfect example of someone whose positivity is contagious and who can make lemonade out of the lemons life handed to her. In true Traci fashion, she doesn’t just make lemonade for herself, she makes the lemonade to share with those around her. Traci donated a portion of her liver to save the life of her four-month-old son, who had Biliary Atresia, which affects live bile ducts in infants. She also started a nonprofit organization to raise awareness about organ donation and transplantation and to financially and emotionally support other families who are going through similar situations. Traci’s heart and mind were opened to the fact that she could use this life experience to “be the good” in this world. She works tirelessly coordinating fundraising events and raising money to support other families who are strapped with the financial burdens that come from undergoing organ donation and transplantation. Traci has spent the last two years “being the good” by serving on boards at the Cleveland Clinic and traveling to Capitol Hill to raise awareness about Biliary Atresia. Her children are so lucky to have her as their “superhero” and their role model and so are all who know her. She is truly making the world a better place.
To learn more, visit bgvt.org.
Nominated by Melanie Sechler
I’d like to nominate Karen Palmer, my mother and the grandmother to my four boys. She has selflessly given herself to myself and our family since birth. She raised me in a single parent household, sometimes working two or three jobs while I was growing up. She never missed any sports games I had and always helped with homework. She was a foster parent for many years and still keeps in contact. Six years ago I was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that changed our world, making it very difficult to raise my sons even with the assistance of my husband. She again has given herself to help our family, from cooking and cleaning to homework with our little guys. We don’t know what we’d do without her. She also helps at our boys’ schools, and volunteers on various projects within the community. She is there for anyone who needs help and will give her all to assist in any way she can.
Nominated by Amy Davidson
She is completely devoted to her husband, Joey, her children, Lia and Julia, and Crossroads Church. She recently started homeschooling Lia and they both love it. Her priority every day is to be a good example to her daughters, her friends, and her family. She has volunteered in the community in so many ways. She has helped raise money in a benefit breakfast for a family who was in a car accident. Amberlee, Joey and Lia often serve food at the Rescue Mission together — Lia even bakes cupcakes to donate sometimes. She volunteers for the Walnut Grove (all-access) playground. She is a strong advocate for Operation Christmas Child, where volunteers fill shoe boxes and send them to children in third world countries for Christmas. Amberlee and Joey collected donations for a local boy diagnosed with cancer. Amberlee has started a workout group for women called Fitness, Fun & Faith with Friends, where women encourage each other to be healthier. They get together often to hike, exercise and spend time building friendships.
Nominated by Tou Cha
I nominate my wife as a parent hero. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when our daughter was only 10 months old. My wife was very sick during treatment (even ending up in the hospital for 10 days), but never let our daughter miss a single thing. She made every holiday extra special even if she didn’t feel up to it. After treatment, her oncology social worker at the hospital recommended my wife head up the local chapter of the Young Survival Coalition (YSC). My wife developed a passion for advocacy work (mostly volunteer), and not only helps to facilitate meet-ups for YSC women in Northeast Ohio, she also became an Ohio state leader for YSC, as well as being accepted into YSC’s inaugural class of RISE advocates. She has sought after any training possible to further her mission of advocacy for young women who are breast cancer patients and survivors, to foster support and camaraderie through their journey from illness to recovery and beyond. Our daughter (now 5), has looked up to my wife’s dedication to this cause, and has declared that she intends to be a scientist when she grows up. My wife does this because she believes in its importance and to help others, not for her own gain.
Email Laura at lucys_eye[email protected] for more info on YSC.
Nominated by Sara Ries
She combines hard work ethic and active participation in raising her daughter. She works full-time and goes to nursing school. Mariah is always working hard with her daughter to improve academically, socially and creatively. She gives her copious amounts of new learning opportunities and takes the time to have conversations with her daughter that not only strengthen her drive for learning, but also expand her knowledge and language. We are so fortunate to have such a great parent who is involved in every part of her child’s life.
Nominated by Carol Thompson
I nominate Takara Edwards because of her passion and enthusiasm for families of CEOGC Head Start (Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland). Ms. Edwards is a mother of three children and works full-time. She has been volunteering as a Policy Council Rep, going on her second term, and she participates regularly at monthly meetings at the center where her daughter attends. One month, with her enthusiasm, Ms. Edwards volunteered to bring in “walking tacos” for the parent meeting, which everyone enjoyed. She also knows the importance of children attending school daily; last school year her daughter had perfect attendance four months and only missed perfect attendance by a few days the other months. Ms. Edwards is our hero for her overall commitment to her family and the families of Head Start.
Nominated by Kristen Yankovitz
Yessenia is a single mom of two wonderful boys. In addition to working full time, she manages to find the time and energy to devote to her ministry, Backpacks of Love. She formed this group to help the homeless population in the Greater Cleveland area. Each month, along with volunteers and her children, she fills 100 backpacks with food and hygiene products. She distributes the backpacks to homeless men and women in Cleveland. Yessenia also faces challenges with chronic health issues, yet she never lets it slow her down. She never hesitates to lend a hand to her family, friends and coworkers. She always has a smile and kind words for everyone she encounters, and is truly a joy to be around. She sets a great example for her kids about working hard, the value of family and helping out in the community.
Nominated by Lisa Cline
Eileen is a parent hero for all she does at her grandson’s school and so much more. Eileen helps at lunch with the 29 kindergarteners and quickly became “nana” to all of them. She also helps in the classroom with everything from bathroom time to pumpkin carving. Eileen also is a hero to her daughter, Lisa, for putting her life on hold to help Lisa with her son. When a job opportunity occurred and Lisa was no longer able to get her son on the school bus, Eileen drove over 1,000 miles to come and stay with them until trustworthy and affordable childcare could be found for him. Eileen is a hero to her children, grandkids and numerous kindergarteners who now have another nana to love, help and teach them.
Kristen Wilson & Anna Maria Hamm
Old Brooklyn Families Group
Nominated by Laura McShane
I would like to nominate the two parents who are with Old Brooklyn Families Group. Kristen does the lion’s share of organizing the website and program calendar. Anna Maria adds the spirit and pep rally component of the group. They work through the CDC to fund the programming offered in the neighborhood. It serves more than just families — it brings together businesses, singles and retirees to help build community spirit.
Kristen says, “Old Brooklyn Families Group wouldn’t be possible without the energy and hard work of Book and Meghan Chrobak, Beth and Tony Loseto, Holly Rosby, Yvonne Horstman, Renee and Vincent Close, Lisa Watson and Katie Brown, along with her staff at Christ Church Old Brooklyn.”
Nominated by Linda Rodriguez
I am nominating Valerie Santiago as a parent hero because of her positive belief during challenging times. She is a mother of two children who she constantly guides to becoming educated adults for their future. She instills faith and love in her children by being an example. Valerie volunteers at Clark Elementary School, leads deaf ministry in her church, supports her husband’s dream of opening his own wood furniture business, and is a loyal friend. She loves to read and learn new things. Valerie is a parent hero because she can balance it all with a smile and positive attitude.
Nominated by Winola Sprague
She and her husband Barry have three children together and have adopted two more. She is a coach to her kids’ sports teams and when she is not the coach, she works the concession stand. Lori is a teacher and is active in her church, even taking children on mission trips. She is the leader of our school sports program and has initiated multiple fundraisers. She works full-time, but is always available and willing to help. She is kind and caring; her love is never-ending. She is a parent to admire and a hero in our area. Lori says she is so thankful for her husband, Barry. “We are a team and his support and strength keep me motivated because he is always right there beside me.”
Nominated by Kathryn Ratica
This parent comes and volunteers in our classroom every single day. She takes a small group and loves working with the children. She is very helpful because she speaks fluent Spanish and aids in translation for our ELLs (English Language Learners). She has daughters in pre-k, kindergarten and seventh grade. Ms. Perez is so helpful and the students love her. She never complains and is always looking for something to help with.