Nominated by MaryJane Incorvia Mattina
Emily Mattina is a beautiful mother to Thomas and Viola, and every year mentors over 65,000 children throughout Connecticut and the New England region. She touches these young people, most of whom are enrolled in sub-standard urban schools, through the passion and dedication that since 1998 she has imbued in her non-profit theatre company, Shakesperience Productions. Through her tireless efforts to obtain grant funding for financially and resource limited public schools, and her partnerships with educators, she inspires teachers and audiences—from kindergarten through high school—with her original productions of classics like Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, with workshops and residencies, and with her amazing adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. The feedback from her audiences rewards Emily and her staff after each performance, be it in schools or community settings. Her accomplishments with adolescents in conflict with the law and enrolled in secure facilities, are nothing short of amazing. Beyond these educational outreach activities, Emily is deeply committed to engaging families and communities with enjoyable, and free, entertainment under the stars in Waterbury and venues throughout Connecticut. Emily is my daughter, inspiring my life and thousands of other lives each and every day.
Nominated by Denise Bailey
Over the past 3 years my sister, Michele, has inspired me and so many others. My brother-in-law has been fighting stage 4 melanoma, as well as a life-threatening stroke and through it all my sister not only took care of him but has been raising two small elementary-age children, maintained a full-time job as a cardiac nurse and found the perseverance and faith to get her family through this difficult time in their lives. To inspire others she ran the NYC marathon to support the fight against melanoma and continues to seek out ways that can help others fighting this terrible disease. She is my hero and an inspiration to all who know her. Many times people forget it's just as difficult for the caregiver and they become the glue that holds the family together. Michele has been that and more to her family. She is not only a comfort and support to her husband but to her children, Nicholas and Samantha. She has found a way to live through adversity and find strength in herself and her faith that she didn't realize she had. To say I am proud of her is an understatement. She deserves this title and more.
Nominated by Alex Lutze
The way my mom inspires me and the people around her cannot be described in 200 words or less. As a mom she makes the most incredible sacrifices for me. She sets a perfect example for how to live, through her health and fitness, her attitude, her ambition, and the way she goes about life everyday. However, I know I am not the only person she inspires. She has been a nurse for many years and in the past couple of years has become a school nurse in the inner city of Milwaukee. Without her and the others like her these kids wouldn't have essential things that most of us take for granted, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc. I have heard countless stories of kids coming into her office with "tummy aches" or "booboos" just to have one moment of their day where they feel loved. She doesn't do it to make a living, she does it because she cares.
Nominated by John Usedom
Dyanne was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her mid 20s and again in her late 20s. During that time, she raised four children and was a leader in the Reach to Recovery Program (an ACS organization for breast cancer patients). She not only raised us, she also taught us how to care for others as she donated her time and money to make kits and deliver them to patients around Chicago. As kids we helped her put these kits together and listened to her on the phone walking new patient through the phases of recovery. She never once considered herself a victim of the disease and taught us to be brave, considerate, tolerant, grateful for all we have. Sure she had rough days, but you'd never know it. She taught my two brothers and sister how to cook, entertain and how to be there for those in need. She never seems to be afraid to meet someone new or even try a new experience. When she dealt with celebrities, she reminded us they were people too and we always kept that perspective. She always encouraged us to try and rarely said no, but instead offered options when we were about to make poor decisions. Even if she disagreed our choices, she was there to help us with them and has never once said "I told you so," even though she would have been justified many times. Now I watch and listen as my daughters, now in their 20s look to Grandma for words of wisdom. Whether it’s about health, relationship or decorating, cooking or sewing and crafts, they call her regularly. Sure Dad has been by her side through all of this, but somehow Mom keeps it all together and continues to inspire her children and now her grandchildren with the courage and kindness she exhibits each day.
Nominated by Jeff Nichols
My wife deserves a Spry Inspiration Award because she is a full-time working mom who in her spare time helps train a group called Marathon Makeover, and trains for 1/2 and full marathons herself. I myself have completed 3 marathons and am training for an Ironman. I never would have accomplished those feats without her support and drive. Since my wife ran her first marathon three years ago she has inspired myself, her sister, her mother, and my brother all to run marathons. Because of running our family is closer than ever. We compete in numerous races during the year and love spending time with one another during and after the races. I can't imagine what life would be like without my wife's passion for running, and this is why I believe she deserves this award.
Nominated by Sirkka Miller
Tracy Wirtanen is the most inspiring mom in the world. She attended graduate school at the prestigious McGill University, and volunteered in the Peace Corps for two years. However, her most impressive achievement so far is her efforts to help her son, Sami. Sami is the sweetest, most active boy you could ever meet, but Sami has Neurofibromatosis, NF for short. Nf is a disease that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body including the brain and spine and can cause a series of other significant health issues. As a mother you would normally feel helpless about that sort of thing, but not Tracy. She got to work right away and started the Littlest Tumor foundation. Her foundation raises awareness and money for this rare disease, and they have gotten so far already! Tracy has reached so far to spread the word about her cause, she has run marathons and even done a bike race across America. She goes to the ends of the Earth to try and help her kid, and if that is not the most inspiring thing ever, I don't know what is.
Nominated by Katie Devane
My mom is not the stereotypical 63-year-old grandma. She doesn't play bridge, but she recently climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. She can't fix a zipper, but she rode a zipline down the side of a volcano in Chile. She couldn't bake you a cake, but she will make you a mean flaxseed shake. She asked for 15-pound hand-weights for Christmas. Sometimes I wish she was a little more of a stereotypical grandma so we could randomly pop in for a visit and find her at home. However, I always have to call in advance to make sure she's not on a 150-mile charity bike ride or training for a mini-triathlon. I guess being in such great shape and looking so awesome at her age has its drawbacks. She has to show her ID every time she tries to use her AARP/senior discount card. In fact, a 30-year-old woman at the gym recently pointed to her and asked the trainer, "Can you help me look like her?" My mom is a great example of how to rock retirement, live fiercely and grow old fabulously.