‘Things like this don’t happen to me,’ says modest Mum of the Year Maureen

GIVEN the demanding schedule she sets herself, it’s a wonder Maureen O’Connell gave herself a long enough break to make it to the finals of the Woman’s Way/John West Mum of the Year contest.

But it’s just as well she because the Tuam, Co Galway, mother-of-four won the top award despite insisting with shock: “Things like this don’t happen to me.”

Maureen, who won out of an entry of over 1,200, was nominated by her 17-year-old son John, who felt she deserved wider recognition for her enormous devotion on the home front and beyond.

Maureen was born in London to Irish parents but grew up in Carraroe, Co Galway, and trained as a nurse. After marrying Christie, the family moved to Canada but returned and settled in Tuam where Maureen eagerly threw herself into the life of the community.

She put her own career on hold to care for the children, of whom Christopher, now aged 10, needs extra-special care.

He has Langerhans Cell Histomycosis, a rare disease where infection fighting cells normally found in the skin accumulate in the bones and cause a range of debilitating symptoms.

While looking after Christopher and his siblings, Maureen also made time to study, training to become a special needs assistant, and took on other challenges such as running the mini-marathon for local causes and working with the Helping Hands charity which helps families caring for children with cancer.

Modest Maureen insisted she got her inspiration from those in her care. “I had days when I was down, but your children need you and they give you the strength to stay strong.”

But Woman’s Way editor, Áine Toner, who helped judge the entries, said she deserved nothing less than the title of supermum. “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’s no greater love that a mother can give her children than to do everything in her power to protect them and we think Maureen did this not just for her family but for her community too.”

The judging panel also included TV celebrities, Lorraine Keane, Mary Kennedy, Bláithnaid Ní Chofaigh, Sybil Mulcahy and Alan Cantwell, as well as Miriam Ahern and Woman’s Way publisher, Norah Casey.

Maureen received a cash prize of €,3000 plus €2,000 worth of pampering treats. She also took the regional award for Connaught while other regional winners were: Mary Byrne from Waterford (Munster), Maeve Yore from Dundalk (Leinster), Colette Smith from Stardone, Co Cavan, (Ulster) and Kay Scott (Dublin).

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