Overwhelming love, support, and passion for her children, these are just some of the amazing and admirable qualities that helped a Tuam woman beat 14 other contenders to be crowned Woman’s Way/John West Mum of the Year for 2010.
Super mum-of-four Maureen O’Connell scooped the award at a glitzy ceremony held for all the finalists at the Westbury Hotel’s Wilde Restaurant earlier this week.
“I’m blown away... things like this don’t happen to me,” said the modest winner who was nominated for the competition by her 17-year-old son John. As well as other qualities Maureen was chosen by the celebrity panel of judges because of her selfless caring nature and for never letting circumstance prevent her from enriching her family’s and community’s lives.
Born in London, Maureen grew up in Carroroe before later moving with her husband Christie to Canada. They returned to Ireland after six years with their young family. Her youngest son Christopher, aged 10, has battled a rare disease called Langerhans cell Histomycosis which occurs when there are too may Langerhans cells (white blood cells ) in the body. These cells normally reside in the skin and help fight infections. Maureen put her nursing career on hold to ensure Christopher and all her children - John (17 ), Philomena (13 ), and Jacinta (nine ) - were well looked after but still found time to study and train to be a special needs assistant.
Maureen O’Connell also nursed her mother-in-law who had Alzheimers while she learned to drive in order to bring John to a different school as he was being bullied. She found time to support others in a multitude of ways, completing the mini marathon to help raise funds for a young girl with tunnel vision, and she is also an ambassador for the children’s cancer charity CD’s Helping Hands.
"I had days when I was down, but your children need you and they give you the strength to stay strong," said a delighted Maureen.
Woman’s Way editor Áine Toner said: "John's nomination touched each judge and we wanted to know more about Maureen. Although a naturally caring person, as all our nominated mothers are, it was Maureen's selfless and loving attitude that went above and beyond motherhood that made her stand out to the judges. There is no greater love that a mother can give her children than to do everything in her power to protect and them, and we think Maureen did this for her own family and community. She is a supermum."
The annual competition attracted a record number of entries this year; more than 1,200 entries were received from across Ireland and 15 mums were chosen to attend the finals in Dublin.
The celebrity panel of judges included Bláithnaid Ní Chofaigh, Mary Kennedy, Lorraine Keane, Sybil Mulcahy, and Alan Cantwell. The winner won a fantastic €3,000 cash prize courtesy of John West as well as €2,000 of pampering treats. Each regional finalist won a complete pampering experience worth €250.