2019 New Orleans Mom of the Year Finalists

We received some amazing nominees for our New Orleans Mom of the Year campaign this year.  Nominations by husbands, fiancés, daughters, sons, sisters, and friends … all who have made a difference in the lives of others and who motivate and inspire those around them. Selecting the top 10 finalists from all of the nominations was tough, New Orleans is full of fantastic Mothers.

A team of objective judges will determine the New Orleans Mom of the Year from the 10 finalists below, and the winner will be announced on Saturday, May 11th!

Top 10 Finalists

Marion Olsen

{Nominated by :: Windy Hassan} My sister in law rocks!!! She has a daughter and 3 grandsons!! She takes care of my boys (3 and 5 year old) without asking for anything in return, while I work. Her brother has cancer and she is helping him raise his daughters. When their mom was in trouble she took care of all four of her brothers children. She has taking care of/helped raise many godchildren, nephews and nieces, over the years. I love my sister in law and not sure where my boys and I would be without her!!!

Crystalyn Aucoin

{Nominated by :: Jessica Jones} She fell madly in love with the man of her dreams, had a beautiful wedding and (a few years later) found out they were pregnant! Just a few months after sharing this joyous news with family and friends, they called us together again to share devastating news… Ryan, her husband, had cancer.

Her entire pregnancy was filled with trips to specialists from New York to Houston. Once they had a plan, she left everything behind and moved with her husband to Houston so he could be treated at M.D. Anderson. After her son was born, she split her time between caring for her newborn and tending to her husband. She never complained.

After two years of battling cancer, Ryan passed but his wife, Crystalyn, keeps his memory alive each and every day through her work and philanthropy. She’s continuing Ryan’s legacy and commitment to helping others experiencing the financial burden of cancer. She’s an active advocate for the Karen T. Stall Research & Breast Institute as well as the New Orleans Lympho-Maniacs.

She encourages others to live life to the fullest because she knows just how precious life can be and how quickly those you love can be taken from you.
She started her own business to ensure she could be there for her son and fulfill her mission to help others with cancer.
She never thought she’d be a single mom… but here she is and she’s doing an amazing job! I have no idea how she manages to squeeze so much into one day!  She’s a pillar of strength, encouragement, and love.

Merylyna Valentine

{Nominated by :: Kailee Adams} My name is Kailee Adams. My Mom, Merlyna Valentine, deserves to be chosen as your Mother of the Year. She is the most selfless person in the world. She puts everyone’s needs above her own. A kidney stone caused her to experience sepsis. From this medical tragedy, she became a quadruple amputee. She fought her way back from a less than 10% chance of surviving that night in the hospital and returned to her job as an elementary school principal in St. Rose, Louisiana. She persevered through tremendous pain and adversity to return to her beloved school. It was a long and arduous recovery of 2 years. She knew she had to go back and continue the important work she started. She embraced the change with positivity, style, and grace. My Mother mentors new amputees for free and inspires others daily. She recently retired after 30 years of service to thousands of children and their families, and now travels the country speaking and sharing her story as a national speaker. Her joy is to speak to numerous women’s empowerment groups and at retreats. Her goal is to empower women and give them the tools they need to live life to the fullest. She is also an author of 2 books. One is the adult book that captures her story of courage, hope, and perseverance. The second is a children’s book that uses a daisy flower that loses four petals to symbolize my Mom’s loss of all four limbs. Her life has always been one of service to others. There is no one more deserving of this honor than her! She is the epitome of strength, perseverance, and heart! I’m the proudest adult daughter in the world! I feel so blessed to be able to call her my Mom!

Susana Ruddock

{Nominated by :: Alyson Ronan} Susana has been a coworker of mine since the summer of 2016. I knew from the beginning that I would look to her for advice, in work and personal matters. We both went through some struggles in trying to start a family and she was there to give me advice on fertility specialists, doctors, and herbal supplements. I look up to her like a big sister because she never stops working to bring people together for great causes. She is involved in Hogs for the Cause, as a team member (Sweet Swine O’Mine), that raises money for families of children with cancer. She is a member of the Junior League, New Orleans Chapter, where she volunteers her time for the benefit and future of her city. Her past and current places of employment have been a list of Non-profit organizations that serve to help people better themselves in their community, health, and well-being. She has worked with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Louisiana Chapter, FestiGals, and most recently Southern Eye Bank. Susana has always been there for me to help me out with advice and different mothering strategies to benefit my baby from sleeping, health, and activities for babies. She has shown me that you can do it all with a young one and positively influence not only your coworkers, friends, and family but an entire community to come together for the benefit of others, of all ages. Her contribution to Southern Eye Bank, as Community Outreach and Educational Coordinator, is to get out into the communities of Louisiana and educate and bring awareness to the Gift of Sight through corneal donation. Her days and sometimes nights are crazy busy but she always seems to find time to fit it all in. I admire her in so many ways as a mother, coworker, and active volunteer in her community.

Maria Albright

{Nominated by :: Stephen Ryals}  My mom has been a single mom since I was about 5. I have a brother who is 4 older then me. She has always taken care of others and has been a nurse for 34 years. She did extra shifts to raise us and put us through private school. She also managed to go back to school to become an APRN during that time. My friends call her mom and she even took in one of our friends as her own. She always had food, room and time for our friends. Her life has not been easy. We lost our home in Katrina but rebuilt. She has experienced cancer in 2015 but barely missed any work during her chemo and surgeries, her patients needed her. She handled this was grace and a positive attitude even when she lost her job because of the cancer. She went on to find a better one. My mom has always found time to volunteer and help others; such as Bridge House, March of Dimes, Krewe de Pink, and medical team st church. I am a recovering addict and have been clean for 18 months. She has never given up on me even though I put her through hell for many years. She joined an opioid awareness task force so she could learn and give input to try and help other addicts and families. Her children have always come first. My mom continues to support my journey of clean living and has also taken under her wing some of the other recovering addicts. She has never met a stranger and will give you whatever she has. Her ability to touch others anywhere she goes is amazing. She has a true servants heart. My mom is not only a survivor but my biggest cheerleader. Without her I am not sure where I would be. I am so blessed to have her!

Karla Marie Cochran

{Nominated by :: Charles Cochran} My wife is an incredible individual. I don’t know how she does half of what she does. As her full time job, She is the Director of Communications and Development at the International school of Louisiana and oversees all aspects of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising, and Events for the organization. Yet, she still finds time to also be a full time Belly Dance Instructor. She teaches 4+ classes a week, mentors women, and leads a troupe of dancers, and she produces a belly dance conference where dancers from all over the world come to new Orleans every year. She offers retreats where she teaches dance and energy healing and she also teaches a BELLY dance for survivors class at the New Orleans Family Justice Center. She has been a photographer for 20 years and it is one of her passions so this is just one more job she takes on. She does all of it for her family. We have three boys and she is an exceptional mom to all of them. Our oldest is graduating Tulane school of architecture this May, our middle one is a sophomore at Jesuit, and our youngest is in 1st grade at ISL. She is always there for our whole family and for the kids… with homework, cooking homemade meals every night, on top of everything else she does. She loves to help people and to be a positive person and she always takes the time to help any way she needs.

Laura Landry

{Nominated by :: Sean Landry} No mom has it easy. Laura, my wife, has had it harder than most. She has summoned superhuman courage and strength to ensure that our son, Owen, has everything he needs to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life in spite of his colic, eczema, Soy and Dairy allergies, tongue ties, bad latches, 8 ear infections, a slipped disc, surgery, and numerous other hurdles.

Laura is a contributor and source of support in multiple online groups for other moms who are struggling with how to feed their little ones when they have allergies. Additionally, she spends her days at work as a Speech Language Pathologist helping other children overcome their challenges. She has more persistence, patience, and love than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s dedicated her life to helping.

On top of work and motherhood, she frequently takes on freelance writing assignments for companies like Scholastic and McGraw Hill where she creates programs to help teachers learn how to hone their crafts.

Her positive impact on children, more than just our son, is immeasurable. Her sacrifices are many and her patience seems to have no bounds.

Please consider Laura for Mom of the Year. Thank you!

Kathy De Blois Horridge

{Nominated by :: Elizabeth Broussard} I would like to nominate Ms. Kathy Horridge. She is an inspiring person. I only hope that I am half the super mom that she is.

She is very supportive and involves in all things related to help kids everywhere. First off, she is involved in our school’s PTO. She also created an after school program for middle school kids to learn crafts. She also helps at the parish plays by sewing costumes and whatever the cast and crew needs. That’s not all… She is a volunteer child advocate for kids involved with CASA. Wait! There’s more..she always helps other kids find programs outside of her own programs. Whether it’s a church program or a mentor program like Hype! She does all these things on her own time. On top of all that..she works full time and supports her own family with all activities. I honestly don’t know how she does it?!

She is a literal SUPERMOM. I feel she deserves the recognition and honor. She is a great woman, a strong advocate, awesome support, and a good friend. I am glad to have gotten to know her. She inspires me to do better. I hope you will consider her for the prize.

Cathy Lambert

{Nominated by :: Nicole Richard}  My mom deserves to be mom of the year. She has helped me care for my children since the day they were born. I delivered 27 week old preemie quads 11 years ago. Sadly I lost one at delivery but my mom took a year off of work to stay home with the surviving 3 so they did not have to go to daycare. After that year she continues to pick them up from school every day, help with homework, feed them dinner and get them to where they need to be. My son is in Boy Scouts and both girls are in Girl Scouts, school cheer, and competitive cheer and one daughter plays softball. She gets all of them where they need to be do I can continue to work. On top of all that she now cares for my 37 year old foster who had a stroke last year. She cannot eat so my mom is responsible for tube feeding her and bringing her to therapy 3 times a week and the numerous doctor appointments, all while taking care of her elderly mother as well. My mom is mom of the year to me, my sister and my children!!!

Nicole Tarver

{Nominated by :: Gloria Vandyke}  What can’t be said about Nicole that is flattering. She is a great mom to her 4 year old son, Jake. She is always on top of everything from laundry to her duties at work. A full-time working mom that never misses an opportunity to take her son “on an adventure” each weekend to a new state park, or nature center just to see him experience the world outside of the city limits. She is an outspoken advocate for those in recovery for Opioid addiction, she offers free legal services to the elderly because she has a heart of gold. And the best part… her birthday is May 11th, and she asked for no gifts, just quiet time. Nicole garners respect but never forgets her Southern manners. She can charm anyone, but stand her ground like a mama. It would be an honor to watch her be honored and maybe pampered for once, because every hard working mom deserves a break and a little recognition.

Not only will the winner be crowned the 2019 New Orleans Mom of the Year, but she will also win the fabulous prize package giveaway valued over $500 including:

  • Bath Bomb Set from Kismet Cosmetics (value of $54)
  • One Pair of Black Tassel Earrings from Laalee Designs (value of $20)
  • Gift Card from Bra Genie (value of $75)
  • Holly Clegg Too Hot in the Kitchen Cookbook (value of $25)
  • One all natural coconut soy scented candle, one all natural Linen and Room Spray and two Fleur de Melts Scented Wax Melts from WicksNOLA (value of $40)
  • One 60-minute massage or facial session from Massage Envy (value of ~$60)
  • Spring set of 4 polishes from Native Polish (value of $44)
  • Express Hydrofacial from Chronos BHW (value of $150)
  • Cleansing Oil, Vitamin C Serum and Exfoliating Serum Set from Mad Hippie (value of $75)

The winner will be announced on Saturday, May 11th!

Mary Olivio
Mary is a caffeine addicted boy mom to Noah, Liam and Luke. This “stay at home” mom can typically been found cruising in her minivan, jamming to Beyonce with a Starbucks in hand on her way to carpool or after school activities. Mary has been married to her high school sweetheart since 2007. She is a founder of Delivering Hope NOLA and the Vanessa Wolff Scholarship Fund at her Alma Mater. Mary is passionate in the local preemie community and has been heavily involved with the March of Dimes since her sons Liam and Luke were born premature.


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