2008 Barnardo's Mother of the Year Winner

Each year motherInc.com.au sponsors the search for the Barnardo's Mother of the Year.

We're delighted to congratulate HEATHER ROUND the 2008 winner of Barnardo's Mother of the Year. Read her story and the stories of the other state winners below.

HEATHER ROUND - BARNARDOS' 2008 MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Goolwa mother of six Heather Round has been named the 2008 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year.

Heather's dedication to her own family and her commitment to help struggling families won her acclaim amongst the judges.

Heather is a testament to a mother's strength. A mother to six children aged 2 to 8, Heather and her husband Tim were devastated when they lost one of their twin sons Max in 2002 at just 13 days old to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a condition where the left side of the heart doesn't form properly.

During this time, Heather and her family endured incredible stress and financial pressure. Heather and Tim wanted to assist other families going through a similar ordeal. So they have set up an accommodation support network opposite the Melbourne's Children's Hospital to assist these families and hopefully ease their financial worries.

Heather also spends endless hours supporting parents of children with congential heart defects and involves the whole family in fundraising and awareness days.

Heather says she loves being a mum because "I have the best kids I could ever ask for. They are all so different yet all so beautiful in their own ways and I also have one very special little angel who will always be in my heart."

SANDIE O'CONNOR - BARNARDOS' ACT MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Sandie O'Connor from Gordon was announced as the ACT Mother of the Year in the 2008 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year Awards

Sandie says she was shocked, humbled and honoured when she was announced as the ACT Mother of the Year. "There are so many amazing Mums out there doing incredible work and I feel very privileged to have been chosen to represent the ACT."

Whilst most 19 year olds are carefree, at that age Sandie's primary concern was to gain custody of her three younger sisters. Sandie already had her own baby but she fought hard to ensure that her sisters would receive a safe, secure and loving family environment.

She successfully received full custody of her sisters a few years ago. They were aged 8, 6 & 5. Now, at 23 she is a mother to five young children (11, 8, 7, 3, 2) and also regularly cares for 2 boys every weekend and fosters many others.

Sandie's nominator and friend, Tamara says she looks up to her and is in awe of how well she has handled everything she's gone through."

Sandie's top tip is to "let kids by kids."

JENNIFER NEY - BARNARDOS' NSW MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Jennifer Ney, pictured with the Hon. Kevin Greene MP, Minister for Community Services, is the 2008 Barnardos NSW Mother of the Year.

Coming from an adopted background herself, Jennifer who is from Wellington had no hesitation in adopting. Jennifer and her husband Doug adopted two boys, Malcolm (20) and Anthony (17) when they were babies.

Jennifer started fostering 10 years ago when the boys were a bit older and she felt "she had a lot more love to give." In 2003 she fostered a severely disabled baby girl who requires round the clock care as she suffers from brain damage, cerebral palsy, is fed through a peg in the stomach and is not able to walk or talk.

And, if this wasn't demanding enough, in 2006, Jennifer fostered two sisters (now 7 & 4) who came from neglected backgrounds and require regular medical treatment.

Jennifer says fostering brings her so much joy. "Everything they do is wonderful. It's all about making a difference, breaking the cycle and setting a good example."

Her friend and nominator, Sandra Devenish, says Jennifer is "an extraordinary individual who gives so much love not just to her own family but to many others."

JOAN HALVORSON - BARNARDOS' NT MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Joan Halvorson, pictured with two of her grandsons, is from Nightcliff.  A mother of seven who has campaigned tirelessly for the rights of disabled children, she has been announced the 2008 Barnardos Northern Territory Mother of the Year.

Joan's 7th child, Megan was born with Down's Syndrome 23 years ago. At the time, services, facilities and education for intellectually disabled children in the Northern Territory were severely limited.

Joan tirelessly campaigned organisations and education departments and it is through her determined efforts that Megan and many others were able to attend mainstream schooling. Megan is now pursuing a career in childcare and works at a Catholic School five days a week.

And at 71, Joan is not slowing down. Her compassion extends to the wider community by providing support to families with children with special needs, her voluntary work visiting women in jail and helping palliative care patients. She also has an "open house" with neighbours and friends regularly dropping in to seek Joan's advice.

Her daughter, Jacqui Thompson, who nominated her, says Joan is "our mini version of Mother Theresa. She is thoughtful, generous, supportive, patient, loving and humble."

JOAN'S TOP TIP: "Leave everything in God's hands."

KACEY LEACH - BARNARDOS' QLD MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Kacey Leach, pictured with her husband and nominator Richard and their children,is from Point Vernon and was announced as the Queensland Mother of the Year in the 2008 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year Awards.

Kacey's devotion to her family and her selflessness won her acclaim amongst the judges. Minister for Women Margaret Keech said that being a mother is the most important job in the world.

"Mrs Leach's dedication to her children and husband, especially through their time of grief, shows a truly remarkable strength of character and I congratulate her on winning this award," she said.

For most people being a single mum at 22 with two children under 3 to look after would be hard enough. However, when Kacey met Richard six years ago, (whose wife had died 6 months prior), she welcomed him and his five sons (aged 4 to 14) into her heart.

"Kacey took on full mothering duties and helped us all through our grief," says Richard who nominated her. "She worked at a day-care to help ends meet, took the boys to counselling sessions and above all accepted the boys and raised them as her own."

Since then they have had three of their own children (5, 2 & 10 months) - making 10 children in total.

And somehow Kacey manages to find the time to study criminal law at university.

Kacey's Top Tip is: "The world won't meet you half way. You have to go and strive for all you can."

JUDY-ANN VIENNA-HALLAM - BARNARDOS' TAS MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Judy-Anne Vienna-Hallam, pictured with her daughter Krista Vienna-Hallam who nominated her, is from Lauderdale and has been announced as the Tasmanian Mother of the Year in the 2008 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year Awards. Judy-Ann's devotion to her family and her spirit and determination won her acclaim amongst the judges.

Not only is Judy-Ann mum to her own four children (aged 12 to 18) but also to many of the ‘neighbourhood' children she regularly takes in. "Most of these kids just want to be a part of our family environment for a while," says Judy-Ann.

All of Judy-Ann's own children have varying levels of disabilities/illnesses - asperger's, dyslexia, asthma, epilepsy, eczema - which has involved numerous operations, lengthy hospital visits to Melbourne and ongoing treatment.

She was the youth director of the local soccer club for 3 years and a trainer for the senior men's teams for the past 5 years. Judy-Ann is also a volunteer ambulance officer often working 10-14 hour shifts.

Her daughter Krista who nominated her says: "Mum's always there for us no matter what. But most of all she loves to spend time with us whether it's picking us up from town late at night or playing cards."

Judy-Ann's Top Tip: "Always look out for family."

MEAGAN MACDONALD - BARNARDOS' VIC MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Meagan Macdonald from Mt. Martha (centre) pictured with the other two Vic Finalists - Elizabeth Fox (left) and Mary Bell (right) has been announced as the Victorian Mother of the Year in the 2008 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year Awards

As far as Meagan is concerned family definitely comes first. When she was only 16, she put her own teenage life on hold to take in her two nieces Samantha and Bianca who were just 9 & 7 at the time. They are now 18 and 15.

She then fought hard to gain full custody of the girls which she was granted when she was 18. Meagan and her husband Scott adopted the girls in 2002. Now, at 25 she also has two biological children (Taylor 5 and Ethan 2).

"I never felt like I ‘sacrificed' my life to care for the girls. It was just something I wanted to do to provide them with a secure home."

"Meagan displayed incredible maturity to care for the girls," says her mother Evelyn who nominated her. "Her priority has always been to provide a safe, loving and stable environment for all her family."

Meagan's top tip is: "Listen to your Mum."

SANDRA VINCIGUERRA - BARNARDOS' WA MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Sandra Vinciguerra (centre) with the other two finalists Janice Hudson (left) and Eduarda Burnitt (right) pictured with Claudia Keech.

Thirty-one year old foster mother, Sandra Vinciguerra from Madeley was today named the 2008 Barnardos West Australian Mother of the Year, at a special presentation ceremony attended by Susan Barerra, Acting Director General of the Department of Communities.

Sandra is a devoted mother and foster carer who has had to overcome her fair share of heartache. In 1999, Sandra and her husband lost their baby Daniel at just 5 months to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Despite the doctor's assurance that it wouldn't happen again, three years later they lost their daughter Valentina at 8 months to the same disease.

With so much love to give to children, Sandra and her husband started fostering in 2000 and also commenced fertility treatment. They have cared for numerous children during that time including a heroin addicted girl. They currently have 3 permanent foster children (6, 3 & 10 months) who come from neglected backgrounds.

And in March, 2007 Sandra and her husband's prayers were answered when she successfully gave birth to their son, Xander.

"He's an amazing blessing," says Sandra. "He's absolutely gorgeous and beautiful and makes us laugh all the time."

Sandra's friend Lee-Anne Woodgate who nominated her says: "The world is a better place because of mothers like Sandra."

SANDRA'S TOP TIP: "You can never have too many kids to love..."

 
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