Local moms make a difference in their families and communities

May 5, 2023

Whether it’s running the kids to sports, working to make ends meet, supporting their communities in the best way they know how, moms are the busiest, most involved, most sacrificing people we know. It’s amazing there’s only one day a year to officially celebrate them! In honor of all the great moms in Westchester/Playa, we want to spotlight three local women who somehow find the time to give back and go the extra mile when it comes to their families and the community.

Sylvia Wilson: Lawyer, Community Volunteer, Mom

Sylvia Wilson is a mom of three (11-year-old twins, Spencer and Alaina, and 5-year-old Skylar) and is a devoted leader in the Westchester community. When she’s not working as a lawyer for the County of Los Angeles, she’s volunteering her time on the board of the Westchester Family YMCA, where she recently helped organize the Battle of the Bands event to raise money for the Y’s Teen Center (opening in June). She’s also a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa, and is working with the Emerson Avenue Community Garden Club to raise money to beautify the Cowan Elementary School grounds. Besides all this, she is an active and engaged admin for the “Parenting Sisterhood in Westchester, PDR and PV” with fellow moms Debbie Ramirez, Aisha Harris, Rosy Mendelsohn and Sharon Vuong.

As busy as Sylvia is, she’s incredibly mindful about how she interacts with the community. In addition to her role models, Mary Ellen Cassman and Karen Dial, she cites three guiding forces in her life that influence everything she does. The first is the wisdom she gleaned from her mother, Odessa Johnson.

Growing up in Modesto, in California’s Central Valley, Sylvia’s mom was eager to give her daughter fun and educational experiences.

“She would take me to San Francisco, and we’d go shopping, but we’d also go to the art museum or to see an orchestra performance,” says Sylvia. “She would always find a way to give me culture, but also have fun.”

Sylvia says she tries to do the same thing with her own kids.

“I’m a big kid myself, so I love planning activities and trips with them,” she says. “Whether it’s for their birthdays or just some random day where I’m like, ‘You know what? Let’s go to Dave and Busters’ or, ‘Let’s go on a little trip to San Diego,’ or just doing something fun together.”

The second guiding force for Sylvia is always giving people the benefit of the doubt. This comes in handy when moderating the Facebook group Parenting Sisterhood in Westchester, PDR and PV, a place for local moms to connect, swap resources and share information.

“Because of the online format, I feel like it’s really easy to be misunderstood. People can’t read your tone in a Facebook comment, so the easiest thing I found when there is miscommunication–if you can’t talk in person or on the phone–the best thing to do is just assume people have the best intentions,” Sylvia says.

She says it comes down to evidence.

“I’m a lawyer. So, you don’t just assume you understand what a person meant by a comment they made,” says Sylvia. “Maybe there’s a back story, maybe there’s something behind why they feel the way they feel. But if you start to assume negative things, it could quickly drag you down, and our Facebook group is all about supporting other women, lifting each other up and really being sisters to each other.”

Sylvia’s third guiding force is to always put out positivity–something she constantly reminds her children.

“I’m sure my kids are sick of hearing it because I’m always telling them to be positive, don’t put things out in the universe that are negative,” she says. “Whatever you put out is going to come back to you!”

Between her Facebook sisterhood, all the places she volunteers, and the families she helps as a lawyer, the local community is stronger, better functioning and has a lot more positivity because of Sylvia Wilson.

Kellie Fell: Business Owner, Motivator, Mom

Kellie Fell is the mom of 8-year-old Holden and 5-year-old Lillie. She and her high school sweetheart husband, Josh, moved to Westchester in 2008. As a TV producer, she had planned to return to work after her first child was born, but soon realized it made more sense to stay home with him and pick up work as a freelance writer. But after six months, she was feeling a bit isolated, so she tried out a fitness class where moms work out in the park with their babies in strollers.

The “Stroller Strides” class was part of a group called FIT4MOM Westside, and there she was able to find the encouragement and support she needed.

“I loved it! I met so many of my mom friends that I still have now through that class. When my son started going to preschool, I kept going without him because it was just so fun to work out with the other moms,” says Kellie.

When she was pregnant with her daughter, she found out the owner was selling the franchise. She wondered if this could be the next phase of her life. But without a fitness or business background, she was scared to move forward until her husband made a PowerPoint presentation highlighting all the pros and cons of pursuing this career path. With his support, she decided her passion for this community outweighed any downsides, and she bought the business!

Though Kellie was nearly nine months pregnant, and her daughter was due any day, she wasted no time getting started. She planned a huge pop-up event with Athleta in Playa Vista and on that very same day, she went into labor.

“I put all this work into the event and then I texted my instructors and said, ‘You guys are going to have to run it without me because I’m on my way to the hospital to have this baby,’” she said.

Owning the FIT4MOM Westside franchise is more than just a job for Kellie. She’s helping to build a powerful, much-needed community where she gets back twice as much as she gives.

“I don’t want to sound too sappy,” says Kellie. “But giving moms a place to come and feel seen and know they aren’t alone is so important to me. Motherhood can feel very lonely, even though you literally have a person stuck to you all day. So having a community you can roll up to with spit-up in your hair and vent about anything from teething to sleep regression to potty training means everything.”

Kellie says she understands how daunting getting out of the house with a baby for the first time can be.

“It’s not even the workout that’s the hardest part. Taking that first step into a group that you don’t know can be so scary and so hard, especially when you’re carting around this new little being,” said Kellie, who this month is expanding her business from Westchester/Playa to include Culver City. “So once you get there, I want you to feel like it was worth it.”

Because moms are always giving, giving, giving, she says that sometimes it can feel like their cups are empty.

“I feel like they need something poured into them because moms pour out so much. So, it’s our job as instructors to pour into these moms and give them some positivity. I want them to come as they are and let us help them get through the day. Or at least through the morning and into naptime!”

Thank you, Kellie, for investing in both the physical and emotional needs of our local moms.

Luriko Ozeki: Healer, Educator, Mom

Luriko is the mother of 12-year-old Octavio, and though she’s been living on the Westside for three decades, she and her husband Thomas decided to start their family in Westchester 13 years ago.

She discovered her passion for Eastern medicine a few years earlier, when she worked at a Japanese supplements company, which set her on a path to study traditional Chinese medicine.

Since becoming a licensed acupuncturist in 2008, Luriko has embraced her calling to help others. And there’s more to her practice, Iyashi Wellness, than just needles! There are many methods she can employ to help treat everything from allergies and anxiety to digestive issues and menopause, including cupping, gua sha, herbal prescriptions and diet recommendations.

Luriko specializes in treating the whole family, but she’s also a pioneer in the emerging field of Pediatric Acupuncture and Asian Medicine.

“I use small hand-held tools that mimic the effect of acupuncture and provide a lot of manual therapy to children who might be afraid of needles,” says Luriko, who adds that traditional acupuncture is only used as a last resort.

Part of Luriko’s holistic philosophy includes the understanding that while it may only be the child who is ill, the family exists in a symbiotic relationship. The healing the child experiences affects the parents, too.

“Moms start to see hope that their child is getting better. And when the mother has hope, she becomes more invigorated and empowered to make changes for the child to become healthier,” she says.

Once the child becomes healthier, the mother might sleep better, too, for example, improving the health and wellbeing of the whole family.

“I try to educate both the parents and the child on what it means to be healthy so that they start to make healthier choices,” says Luriko. “I treat many moms, and luckily, a lot of them have started to really understand how to avoid being sick by taking preventive measures and how not to get so stressed and have less anxiety.”

When COVID hit, Luriko was able to quickly pivot her business to a telehealth model to provide treatments for many who were suffering with symptoms of the novel virus. She says that because Chinese medicine has been around for more than 2,000 years, the practice has developed a very sophisticated understanding of how viruses and bacteria enter and affect the body through every stage of disease. She’s grateful she was able to successfully treat so many patients in the community dealing with symptoms of COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic, and now, those dealing with long COVID.

While Luriko is very humble when she speaks about the impact her work has on local families, she continues to find ways to make a difference and help. She currently runs an acupuncture Facebook group, where members can discuss best practices and have a space to share. She is also an active volunteer at her son’s school and serves on the Parent Group Board and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee.

“I’m hoping I’m making a little drop in a pond, but I know there are other acupuncturists who are also doing wonderful work within the community,” she says. 

Thank you Luriko, we all know every drop counts.

This year, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14 and we encourage you to let the mom in your life take a breather, cook her a great meal, make a small contribution to your community on her behalf, or simply tell her you love and appreciate her. Happy Mother’s Day!

Story by Shanee Edwards. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

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