Honoring our 2017 Super Moms!

May 6, 2017

Our community is full of Super Moms: women who hold their families together with their strength, poise and never-ending dedication, who juggle kids at three different schools, sports team schedules, full-time careers, volunteer work, partners and friendships, and somehow manage to make it all look easy.

Inspired by the hard work and love of our own mothers and grandmothers, The HomeTown News honors local moms each year in the May edition to help pay tribute to women who are making a difference in the community through their dedication to their families, careers, schools and neighborhoods. As nominations roll in from husbands, children, friends, co-workers and neighbors, our committee has the almost impossible task of picking just four to recognize each year.

In the following pages are our 2017 Super Mom Honorees, their nominations and their Super Mom “stats.” While they were all selected for different reasons, they all embody what it means to be a Super Mom!

A special thank you to Playa del Rey’s Ballerini Cooley Studios for partnering with us on our Super Moms’ issue and providing our honorees with a fabulous family photo shoot. 

To all the awesome Super Moms out there, and we know our community is full of them, Happy Mother’s Day!

Audrey LaPonza

Nomination: Audrey LaPonza is a Super Mom! She is amazing, and here is why…Audrey is a mom to six children, all born and raised here in Westchester, as well as a grandmother to 18 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Her family has always been the most important thing in my mom’s life.

When I was in elementary school, my mom started working at Mervyn’s in Westchester, and was there until it closed. She was always there with a smile on her face, ready to help someone find the perfect piece of jewelry.

I have lucked out since she has been retired, and my mom is our primary babysitter for our two daughters. She willingly, and excitedly, picks them up from school, takes them to the park, volunteers at class activities, goes to the farmers’ market, and even does the dreaded homework with them! Perhaps you have seen her at any of the hometown functions like the Fourth of July parades, Race for Success, LA Arts Collective dance recitals, food trucks at Visitation, the 75th anniversary celebration for Westchester, or bringing lunch to my dad at B&J Service Center. This town, Westchester, is her home.

She is a role model for how a person should live. She does not complain, but finds joy in every situation. She faithfully takes her friends to the doctors when they can’t drive themselves. She takes the opportunity to teach and talk about new experiences.

She’ll attend every recital, concert, ceremony and sport’s game that she can. The grandkids are never embarrassed about her cheering; in fact, they secretly really love it! Our mom is proud of every one of her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. She loves her in-laws as her own. She never judges others, and always tries to make things “even.” She always looks for the best in people and truly cares about what is going on in their lives.

When I think about the kind of mother I want to be, and I work to be, I think of my mom. She was, and is, present–not just “there.” She participates, supports and loves with all her heart. Our family is blessed to have her as our mom.

Thank you for teaching your family what happiness is about and the importance of having a positive attitude and a loving heart.*

Super Mom Stats:

What is the best part about being a mom? I think the best part about being a good mom is being there when they need you, whether it’s to celebrate or to support them when they need help or encouragement. It’s also important to be spontaneous and sometimes let the housework and bills go and just have fun.

What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Don’t be afraid to say what needs to be said, but do it in a kind way. Or don’t say it at all.

What’s your favorite place in the community to take your kids or family? Camping, the beach and the zoo. It’s fun to go camping with families with kids. They learn to get along, build fires, read maps and hike. As they grow, they instill it in their families, and it’s fun to see two or three generations camping and enjoying the same fun.

As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? Keeping in touch. I think it’s really important to stay connected.

*Nominated by daughters Cathy Ohnstad & Krista Doby.

Grace Yao

Nomination: Grace is one of my favorite people, and I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her as a parent and seeing her kids grow up over the past several years. She is definitely a super mom in my book.

It’s easy to explain away the contributions that she makes in the community as just being part of her job at LMU, as the Director of Public Affairs, but so much of what she does is driven by the love she has for her children and her native Westchester.  Whether it’s canvassing for political figures whom she thinks will make positive changes in the community, initiating clothing drives for the needy, or bringing attention to important issues in public education through her role as Education Co-Chair on the Neighborhood Council, Grace works tirelessly to support worthy causes while raising her four young children.

I honestly don’t know how she finds the time to do everything she does in the community, while remaining such an active and involved parent at home and in her kids’ schools. She’s a classroom parent, teaches art appreciation and does fundraising too! And I love how she encourages her kids to participate in some of her activities, teaching them the importance of taking initiative and working hard for things that are important. Don’t even get me started about her side business as a Rodan + Fields consultant!*

Super Mom Stats:

What is the best part about being a mom? So many things…Perhaps just the joy of watching my kids interact (when they’re not fighting, of course) and growing into their own person with all their idiosyncrasies. Perhaps the best part is just having four “littles” for whom I get to be “mom.”   

What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Make sure your kids know you care about them as a person and not for what they do or achieve. Oh, and pick your battles!

What’s your favorite place in the community to take your kids or family? To their respective schools. #Freedom. OK, it’s probably a tie between LMU and the Loyola Village Branch library. They love hanging out on campus and they also love going to the library to pick out books.

As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? Either getting my kids to eat everything or getting out the door and to all 3 schools on time in the morning.

What’s your favorite way to spend Mother’s Day? With my doting kids who are not complaining, and not asking for me to do things for them or take them somewhere. I’m still waiting for that Mother’s Day to come. Until then, I’ll just enjoy their company.

*Nominated by colleague Andy O’Reilly.

Christy Skura

Nomination: Christy truly is a Super Mom! She is someone who definitely fits the criteria of making a difference in the community through her dedication to her family, career, school and neighborhood.

Having moved to Westchester in 2003 with the intention of starting a family, Christy is now the mother of two awesome, intelligent and spirited boys, Jake and Brody.

As a doctor of physical therapy specializing in pediatrics, she began her career at Therapy West, serving the children of our Westside community.  Currently, she is working with the UCLA Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy  (CDMD) on clinical trials and evaluating new therapies. Typically, DMD affects about 1 out of every 3,500 boys, and thanks to recent advancements in treatment, life expectancy has increased. The work that Christy is helping to advance strives to give these children longer, healthier lives with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

In the realm of education, Christy has dedicated herself to building WISH Charter since it started in 2010. Christy is the co-president of the WISH Community Association, the school parent/teacher/student organization, which manages all school events and parent communication, as well as being a parent voice to the school administration. And if that wasn’t enough, she is also the Chair of the Finance Committee, which has raised funds over the years to keep art, music, technology, library arts and physical education and assure small class sizes at the school. She has also worked behind the scenes with other parents and instructors to help craft the structure for WISH Academy High School. Additionally, she serves as the team assistant on Jake’s club soccer team. 

Most importantly, however, she is always there to guide our children, help with homework, play games together, fix up the scrapes and provide the love that nourishes our family.*

Super Mom Stats:

What is the best part about being a mom? The feeling of connection to my kids, my spouse, my sibling and parents, other parents in my community and the world around me. I truly believe that becoming a parent fundamentally changed who I am as a person, in a way I can’t fully articulate, that inspires me to volunteer and try to make the world a better place for them. Mostly, I’m just caught up in the day-to-day and trying to get by, but being a mom has helped me to look towards the bigger picture of what I’d like the world to be like for my kids, and someday, their kids.

What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Get involved in your community! There are so many great things going on around Westchester that can really help to build your connections to other moms and families and give it a small-town kind of feeling. I’ve been so inspired by my kids’ school, WISH Charter, and the opportunity to volunteer my time, not only for the students at WISH, but also to help expand the inclusive education model that benefits all children. For as much time and energy I have given to the school, I feel like I have received back ten times that amount personally in terms of friendships I’ve made and all that I’ve learned along the way.

What’s your favorite place in the community to take your kids or family? There are lots of great things to do outside in our local community! Some of our family favorites are sand dune sledding at Toes Beach, jogging the Bluff Creek Trail, hiking the Baldwin Hills steps and bike riding/skateboarding/scootering around the LMU campus.

As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? Multitasking! My life as a mom seems to involve constantly juggling multiple things at once, lots of to-do lists and running from place to place. Working multiple part-time jobs makes being organized a necessity. But being a mom also means knowing when to stop, and devote all of my attention to whatever or whoever calls for it at the moment, especially my kids or husband. I’ll admit, I’m not nearly as good at that. I’m better at the multitasking.

What’s your favorite way to spend Mother’s Day? I’ll let you know when I figure it out! In past years, we’ve enjoyed the Mother’s Day buffet at Truxton’s and gone on a local hike, but to be honest, the kids don’t enjoy the hiking as much as I do, and I don’t enjoy the complaints when they’re not having fun. Something that’s been fun at other times of the year is splitting the day up so each person is in charge of planning what we’ll do for a couple of hours. That’s been more fun, when each of the kids (and parents) get to plan something that they think everyone will enjoy.

*Nominated by husband, Chris Skura, and friend, Patti Scott.

Joy Fehily

Nomination: Joy Fehily is a Westchester Super Mom!  We have lived in Westchester since 2005, and we never want to leave.  We attend services at St. Anastasia Catholic Church, belong to the Y, and our daughters attend Westside Neighborhood School.

Besides being an amazing wife and wonderful mother, Joy is the Executive Vice President of PMK-BNC, one of the largest public relations firms in Hollywood. In her job as a publicist, she represents and helps guide the careers of A-list actors, writers, directors and producers. When she owned her own company, Prime, she was named one of the most powerful publicists in Hollywood by Business Insider and a woman of influence by L.A. Biz

Being a high-powered publicist pales in comparison to Joy’s most important job title–mother. When she braids our daughters’ hair, helps them with homework or attends their dance classes, Hollywood is a million miles away.

She is confident, generous and kind, and a wonderful role model for our two daughters, instilling in them the belief that women can do anything!*

Super Mom Stats:

What is the best part about being a mom? My world changed when I became a mom. I find that I have more patience, a deeper empathy for others and a greater capacity for love than I ever thought possible. Also, I love traveling and having children has made my adventurers even sweeter. Seeing the world through my daughters’ eyes has been an incredible experience for me.

What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? My tip for moms is: raising children takes a village, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get to know your neighbors and other local moms. It will change your life! My local family tip is: sign up for the “Nextdoor” website emails for your neighborhood. You will be kept in the loop regarding everything going on in your area. It feels like a true neighborhood watch program.

What’s your favorite place in the community to take your kids or family? I am Chilean/Italian, so everything is about food in our family! Our kids love family breakfast dates at Senor G’s for the best huevos rancheros in L.A. and sushi dinner dates at Irori in the Marina. After full bellies, we love going to Toes Beach in Playa del Rey. Our girls have been digging for sand crabs there since they could walk!

As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? I can “feel” when my daughters are getting sick before they do. I think a lot of moms can. I immediately cut out sugars in their diet and start them on a round of vitamins, herbs and give them extra veggies to help their immune system combat the bug. It usually does the trick!

What’s your favorite way to spend Mother’s Day? Pampering my own mother! We like to do spa days, as there is no better gift than our time together.

*Nominated by husband, Brendan Fehily.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thank you to Ballerini Cooley Studios and our gift bag sponsors: Cantalini’s Salerno Beach, Hornblower Cruises and Events, Tony P’s Dockside Grill and Flowers by Felicia.

All photos by Ballerini Cooley Studios: ballerinicooleystudios.com

Posted May 2017.

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