As parents, we all know those moms and dads: the ones we idolize because they seem to have it all together, or who are doing something extra at home or in their community that we only wish we could make time for. While we may see it that way, many of those we call “Super Mom” or “Super Dad” would tell you differently. They feel as if they’re like everyone else, struggling to get their children to adulthood and beyond in the best possible manner.
We asked readers to nominate those moms and dads who are going above and beyond — sometimes, despite challenges of their own.
JARED AND CHRISTY BARTLEY
Nominated and photos by Mary Lou Toler, Co-Director, Metro Catholic School
The Bartleys, who have three boys, Jeffrey, 10, Ryan, 8, and Sammy, 5, are actively involved in their neighborhood, their family, and their children’s school.
Christy Bartley serves as a parent volunteer with the school’s green coordinator at Metro Catholic School in Cleveland, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Green Ribbon School.
Christy helps support the school’s environmental programs with her efforts on the school’s Green Team and Garden Club, in which she spends 3 to 4 hours a week.
Christy helped begin the school’s Green Team two years ago, which takes on environmental issues.
“They make those connections between the environment and healthy living,” Toler says about the team.
The group works on recycling initiatives, learning about the innovative ideas of local green businesses in the greater Cleveland area, conservation efforts and helping with the school’s garden.
Christy adds the students choose the projects, such as last year’s effort to raise money to provide a working llama to a family and donating toys made out of old clothing to an animal shelter.
Christy says her passion for the environment began when she lived abroad and saw the need for better trash disposal efforts. “Now it’s about planting little seeds that will grow later,” she says about teaching the kids about environmental issues.
Jared, her husband, is the Rocky River Watershed coordinator for the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District. While he isn’t volunteering weekly at the school, he provides expert information and help to the school’s green efforts.
“He gets to share his job and passion with kids,” Christy says, adding he did a presentation to students regarding water runoff and where it eventually goes.
“Their passion is to connect the school to opportunities that will influence how we think about our earth for years to come,” Toler says. “She (Christy) is an amazing model of what can be done when a person has a passion and dedication to a topic and idea. She not only teaches students and staff here, she helps bring ideas to fruition. Christy and Jared carve out their time to spend at the school. They know this earth is going to be passed on and they are making sure to continue that legacy when we move on.”
Nominated by her husband, Kevin
Barb Payne is a mom of four kids: sons Joshua, 11, and Jackson, 9, and daughters, who were adopted, Destiny, 14, and Xiomara, 11.
“Something told us we needed to (adopt the girls),” her husband Kevin says, adding the couple talked about adopting children before they got married as a way to grow their family.
Their youngest, Xiomara, who had severe scoliosis went through surgeries and endured complications from the procedure.
Barb, a teacher at Parma Schools — and her husband — however, doesn’t seem fazed about all the family’s responsibilities and taking care of their kids’ needs. In fact, she makes an effort to help her community so things can be better for everyone.
She volunteers at her kids’ schools, PTA programs, church, and is the manager of her son’s travel basketball team. She does this all while dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which her husband says saps her strength and energy every day.
“She was diagnosed shortly after our first son was born,” Kevin says. “She never stops, she never quits. She is always advocating for our kids, school, home, or wherever. She shows that it is possible to be involved in a lot of things and still take care of your family.”
SEAN AND KRYSTA O’BRIEN
Nominated and written by Lynn B. Johnson
Sean and Krysta recently moved to the east side of Cleveland to found “Church in the Round” with their six children. Despite the challenges of starting a new community of faith (non-denominational) and the many activities that are required, they are consistently there for their children and encourage them to pursue extracurricular activities such as sports and after-school jobs. The kids are a happy and welcoming bunch, who freely share their toys and outdoor equipment with other kids who have been brought to their home while parents attend church planning meetings and study groups, such as the worldwide Alpha program. Pastor Sean leads through love and an exceptional background in education. Really, they’re a remarkable group and I’m proud to know them. Their faith in uprooting their family to put down life and church roots here in Greater Cleveland is truly an inspiration.
Nominated and written by Jeannie Fleming-Gifford
Sandi is first and foremost a mother to her five children (and wife to her supportive husband David), all who are well on their way to becoming awesome adults. Throughout the years of raising her children (whom she homeschooled until they went to high school), Sandi has also been involved in her community, volunteering, and also working part-time for various organizations whose missions she is passionate about. She has worn many hats (and often sports them simultaneously), including that of preschool teacher, education assistant, dance recital coordinator, props mistress, house manager, and tech crew, all while being highly involved in her church teaching PSR. Sandi can always be found learning something new — whether it be ballroom dancing, calligraphy, knitting or baking — and always is willing to share her time and talents with the community. She definitely has shared her skills as a rockstar parent with the community through her professional and volunteer efforts, and the Lake County community has definitely been rewarded due to her being a parent hero.
AMANDA AND BRIAN FORCE
Nominated and written by Kristina and Greg Dooley
Ask anyone in Lordstown if they know the Force family and the likely response you’ll receive is, “Of course! They helped our family (insert caring action here).” Brian is the head basketball coach at Lordstown and runs his own summer basketball camp. He is an amazing mentor to youths in the area. His wife, Amanda, mother of three boys ages 5, 8 and 13, regularly volunteers at school or community events. These two are not only fantastic parents, but they would give everything they have to help someone in need. In any conversation with their sons, it is obvious that their giving and loving nature has rubbed off on them, as well.
GARY THOMAS ZAHLER
Nominated and written by Mary Lynne Zahler
Gary is an animal rescuer. He cares for the many stray cat colonies in our area. His daughter Ava will go with him to help most times and she has acquired a great love of animals and all nature as a result. He also does everything for his family and 8-year-old daughter. He also looks out for Ava’s 85-year-old Grandmother.