Winner Rachel Sherman was described by her three children as
As tough and rugged as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Ryan Nece and Pro Bowl linebacker Shelton Quarles are, both will readily admit to being mamas' boys. In fact, they wouldn't have it any other way.
Both Nece and Quarles grew up in single-parent homes, and each wholeheartedly credits his hard-working mother for shaping him into the successful man he is today.
Friday, Nece and Quarles took the time to ensure another group of exceptional mothers received the credit it deserved when the linebacker duo held the fourth annual "Best Moms in the Bay Luncheon."
The program was conceived by Nece and Quarles as a tribute to their own mothers as well as a way of recognizing deserving moms.
"It's about celebrating moms; it's about celebrating people who are making a difference – the true heroes in our community, the women who are making sacrifices," Nece said. "Shelton and I take this opportunity to just celebrate them because we know how hard it is and how hard our moms worked, and we know how hard these moms are working to try and make a difference."
In what proved to be a rewarding and emotional start to this year's Mother's Day weekend for everyone in attendance, the event provided Nece and Quarles the opportunity to honor 25 of the most deserving mothers from around Tampa Bay.
Beginning in March, Buccaneers.com accepted nominations for "Best Mom" honors. Nece and Quarles then went to work, paring down the hundreds of entries to arrive at the top 25. The corresponding nominees were then asked to be part of Friday's special luncheon, which was held at Raymond James Stadium.
"It's amazing because these stories come from all walks of life – from stay-at-home moms to professional businesswomen to foreigners to all over the spectrum," Nece said. "You read these stories, and there's a theme in these stories, and it's 'moms are selfless.' True moms are selfless, and they make sacrifices. They put their children and their families before themselves. That's what is amazing about it."
As part of the celebration, the top three mothers – who were selected by Nece and Quarles on the basis of their nomination letters – were individually recognized and received prize packages.
Rachel Sherman, who was chosen as the 2007 Best Mom of the Year, is a single mother who was nominated by her three children for her tireless devotion to fulfilling both parent roles.
In her nomination letter, which cited countless ways in which Sherman has pushed each of her children to excel in all that they do, she was described by her children as "the most unselfish, caring, beautiful person we know. We are her life; she is ours."
As the overall top selection, Sherman received a prize package, which included a Mother's Day necklace from Ackerman Jewelers, a vacation package to Lake Buena Vista Spa in Orlando, various gift certificates to local restaurants and premier transportation and tickets to a Buccaneers home game.
First and second runners-up Janet Hamilton and Sharon Marcus also received luxurious prize packages that featured jewelry and gift certificates to a variety of establishments.
Hamilton, who was moved to tears in accepting her package, was nominated by her son for her courage in escaping an abusive relationship and building a stable life for herself and her family. In the heartfelt nomination, Hamilton's son wrote that she taught him "the most important thing you will ever have is family, that no matter what, family is the thing that will never leave you."
Marcus, the second-runner up, was recognized for battling through kidney failure and rheumatoid arthritis to successfully raise her three adopted children. In her nomination letter, Marcus was described as always putting other's needs before her own.
"Taking about 80 pills a day to prevent infection," the letter read, "never stopped her from taking us to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure… She's living proof of what she has taught her children our whole lives: just because she's disabled doesn't mean she's unable."
In addition to the top three mothers, all the honored guests received gift bags and were treated to pictures with the players. The luncheon, now in its fourth year, was made possible through the help of co-sponsor The Tampa Tribune.
As part of the program, Stacie Schaible, who anchors News Channel 8, delivered the keynote address, encouraging all parents to remain patient with their children despite life's challenges as well as to take time to live in the moment.
Schaible also emphasized the importance of "teachable moments." Speaking about the popular concept in education regarding scenarios that offer lessons to developing children, Schaible redefined the term, explaining that she believes in a certain reciprocity that exists in these teachable moments.
"I think the teachable moment becomes when we stop and listen to what they have to say," Schaible said, commenting on how adults can learn important life lessons from their children.
Recalling an incident in which, busy at work, she lost track of time and forgot to pick up her child from school, Schaible explained how her son easily forgave her, teaching her a lesson in forgiving and forgetting.
Nece and Quarles will again honor great parents as they host a Best Dads in the Bay Luncheon on June 15 in celebration of Father's Day. Click here to nominate a father you feel is worthy of being named Best Dad.