Meet the 2018 Philly Family Community’s Parents of the Year
These parents were nominated by their peers as ones who go above and beyond to take care of their families, contribute to the community, and have excelled professionally.
This mom of a 12-year-old considers the Kimmel Center her “second home” and especially loves Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.
From her nomination: “I used to pat myself on the back for the great things I did for my kids. I thought that I was sacrificing everything for them. Then, I met Amy and I realized I was a selfish parent. Amy is a widow. Her husband died shortly after their son, Aidan, was born. For 11 years she has been both mother and father to Aidan. Aidan has a phenomenal talent for the trumpet. Amy has fostered this talent with every fiber of her being. I have never met a parent so committed to providing the best education for their child. To say she is sacrificing is not enough. She works a full time job and still makes time to take Aidan to trumpet lessons, performances, rehearsals, and camps. Amy loves her son like no other parent I’ve ever met. I’m humbled by her work ethic, love, and dedication to her son.” — Angela Phillips
Nilon’s son is 11; she lost her 13-year-old daughter to cancer in 2014. After her death, Nilon started Lucy Belle’s Rainbow, a foundation that provides art supplies and art therapy to kids undergoing treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
From her nomination: “She continues to give back despite the loss of her beautiful daughter. Vashni has helped so many families in our area. You will not find a more deserving parent or community member. Vashni has turned her family’s tragedy into triumph.” — Beverly Rusoff
Sharkey has two living daughters; the third, one of twins born at 23 weeks’ gestation, died at 1 week old. She launched a foundation, Today Is a Good Day, to help support families of premature babies.
From her nomination: “The mission of Today is a Good Day is to provide personal and financial support for families with premature babies navigating the NICU journey. They do that by sending care packages to many area hospitals, providing listening sessions where they meet with families in the NICU and providing grants. The organization is only 3 years old but growing by leaps and bounds each year largely in part because of Martha’s passion and commitment. When I think of parent of the year Martha is the first person who comes to mind, because not only is she a wonderful mother but she also does so much to help other parents.” — Karen Beck
Stamps has two sons, both athletes who attend The Haverford School. When they’re not on the field, she said, they’re traveling around the Main Line. Her older son has a rare metabolic disorder, Maple Syrup Disease, and needed a liver transplant in 2004; Stamps and her husband created the AJS Foundation to help other families dealing with the disorder. She also volunteers with a number of other local organizations, including CHOP and her sons’ school.
From her nomination: “Melissa Stamps is the most caring person I know and is constantly giving of herself and time. On top of it, she does it all with a smile. Two MSD children received liver transplants this summer funded by the AJS program. She is an amazing wife, mother, and friend to all.” — Lisa McBride and Richard Stamps
She’s a mom of three, one of whom has significant developmental disabilities and medical issues. She started the nonprofit Great Expectations Together, which supports individuals with disabilities and their families. Her family loves the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, and the Please Touch Museum.
From her nomination: “Brooke is an amazing mother to her three children, one with special needs. She also started a nonprofit focused on inclusion and works as a nurse. If that wasn’t enough, she is also in school to learn how medical institutions can better serve those who cannot advocate for themselves. Brooke literally never sits down. All of her energy is devoted to making the world a more compassionate place for her son and for all of us. She takes all the stress in her life and instead of being overwhelmed she focuses on others. She has been a friend to me and helped listen and ease my stress as a parent. She is an inspiration to me.” — Tracey McCaughey and Sarah Lyke
Michael Savitski, Radnor
This dad of two enjoys the local playgrounds and occasional trips to the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Museum. Everyone in the family is a “Disney fanatic,” he said, and the family makes at least one trip to Walt Disney World each year.
From his nomination: “Michael drops everything at anytime of the day or night to help others. At a moment’s notice he helps families through hardships. He also started and runs the Youth Aid Program in Newtown Township (Newtown Square) so first-time youth offenders have a second chance at a clean record through community service and redirection. Michael may clock out but he truly is never off duty when it comes to helping the community.” — Siobhan Savitski
Heather Grasso, Havertown
This mom of four, one with a chromosomal disorder, loves going to Eagles and Flyers games with her kids. She works closely with Haverford Heat Cheerleading.
From her nomination: “With all that she puts on her plate, you will never hear her complain. You will never hear her use her special needs child as a reason why her life is hard at times, stressful, or anything of the sort. She never uses him as a reason as to why she is having a bad day, to get sympathy or as a reason to receive pity. She is a strong, proud, and selfless woman — putting those she loves first, making sure that everyone around her is taken care of and not just her own family but the 70+ cheerleaders, their families, and 13 coaches in our organization.” — Danielle Foster
Joanna Branch, Havertown
Branch and her three children love the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education for hiking and generally experiencing nature. She runs family programs for the Havertown Area Community Action Network (H-CAN), a non-partisan, volunteer network dedicated to promoting progressive values in Havertown and beyond. The organization works to champion equality and inclusivity in the Havertown area and beyond.
From her nomination: “ Joanna is the salt of the earth; she is the person on the ground working hard to make her community better for her children and their peers. I can not think of a more deserving parent for this award.” — Tracy Power
Dana Wainstein, West Chester
This mom of four, one of whom has Down Syndrome, enjoys Sunday breakfast at DK Diner or Nudy’s Cafe and watching the Eagles during football season. She has long been active in the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group, and is taking over as its president soon. Wainstein also devotes significant time to Team CMMD, raising money for cancer patients and their families.
From her nomination: “She is highly engaged in ensuring all children, whether they have special needs or not, have access to the same opportunities. Whether she is marshalling her resources via text on the sideline of her daughter’s swim practice or chatting with fellow moms of children with special needs while her son has speech therapy, Dana’s tireless enthusiasm and instinctive compassion have had an incredible impact on so many people in our community.” — Karen Murray
Grandparent of the Year: Walt Carey, Upper Darby
This Lower Merion School District bus driver asked his daughter to make a post in the MLPC during the March 2nd nor’easter to keep parents from worrying as their kids made their way home.
From his nomination: “My dad is a beloved bus driver. And he takes pride in his job, and truly cares for ‘his kids’ like they were his own grandchildren. He gets them to and from school safe every single day. He makes them smile, he acknowledges every single student. He goes to LMSD events to support the students even when he is not working. He spends weeks practicing and perfecting his route in the summer, and goes over the roll until he knows each kid’s name and bus stop.” — Jill Carey
Photographs by Jean Goins and John Sturgis.