Best Mom winner Lisa Litton found out just how grateful her sons were for here selfless love
It's a question often asked this time of year: Where do I find the perfect gift for the perfect mom?
On Friday, Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebackers Ryan Nece and Shelton Quarles helped 50 grateful families find the answer. In honor of Mother's Day, and the countless moms who make our lives wonderful, Nece and Quarles staged the "Best Moms in the Bay Luncheon" and let 50 area women know just how important they are.
The luncheon at Raymond James Stadium, now in its third year, was made possible through the help of BB&T and The Tampa Tribune, as well as the hard work of Nece and Quarles, who conceived of the program as a tribute to their own mothers.
The 50 moms invited to Friday's event were chosen from among a record number of nominations submitted to the linebackers through Buccaneers.com. Nece and Quarles read every submission and narrowed the field to the 50 finalists, then chose three particularly outstanding women to be named Best in the Bay at the luncheon.
This year's luncheon featured a special guest speaker whose schedule finally allowed her the chance to attend the Mother's Day event. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio shared with those in attendance her thoughts on motherhood and what it takes to raise a child.
"What really matters is that you take this beautiful person who has been put on this earth and you give them unconditional love and you send them consistently this one message: 'I am in your corner,'" Iorio said. "My parents have done that for me, and I wouldn't be mayor today if I didn't feel that unconditional support from them, no matter what."
In thanking the mayor for taking time to speak at the luncheon, Nece and Quarles presented her with a gift, which included a donation to the City of Tampa riverwalk project. The project is a major initiative of Iorio's, and she was grateful for the support shown by the two Buccaneers.
After praising all of the moms in attendance and handing out some fantastic raffle prizes, Nece and Quarles turned to their awards for the Best Moms in the Bay.
Nancy Ashton was recognized as first runner-up. She has raised three successful children and, as stated by her daughter, has always put the needs of her kids before her own.
Mary Lee Telfair Cooper, Best Mom second runner-up, served as an educator for 31 years before founding a non-profit organization to assist students in attaining an education.
The Best Mom in the Bay, Lisa Litton, was nominated by her 17-year-old son Josh. Litton overcame two battles with ovarian cancer only to be faced with a newborn son's immunity disorder and the diagnosis of juvenile diabetes in another son. In addition, Litton recently opened her home to another young man who was faced with the possibility of having to move out of state and finish high school away from the life he has built in Tampa.
Nece revealed all of this by reading the nomination that was submitted on-line. As soon as Litton realized that her own son had written the nomination, the tears began to flow.
"This was quite a surprise," Litton said. "I was very overwhelmed [to be named best mom]. I grew up without a mom, and when Josh was born I thought how blessed am I to be able to be a parent, a mother, to a child. Then I ended up having three more!"
All 50 Moms in attendance received a goodie bag filled with Buccaneers merchandise, a complimentary two-week subscription to The Tampa Tribune and a #1 Mom charm from a local jeweler. The three best moms received additional prizes, including front row tickets to a Buccaneers home game, gift certificates to local restaurants, vacation getaways to hotels in Tampa and Orlando and pearl jewelry from another local jeweler. As Best Mom, Litton will have the opportunity to have her picture taken with Nece and Quarles on the field before the Bucs home game she attends.
"What's interesting about this year's theme, listening to the mayor speak, she talked about unconditional love," Nece said. "Another theme that I read in the nominations was selflessness. When you combine unconditional love and selflessness it really makes up the perfect mom."
Added Quarles: "Today was really about recognizing some great women and exceptional mothers. I feel blessed that Ryan and I are able to celebrate Mother's Day each year with so many amazing moms from all around Tampa Bay."
Nece and Quarles will again honor great parents as they host a Best Dads in the Bay Luncheon on June 16 in celebration of Father's Day. Click here to nominate a father you feel is worthy of being named Best Dad.