Pasco woman named one of Working Mother magazine Mothers of the Year
Working Mother magazine is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. So instead of honoring just one working Momma as Mother of the Year, the magazine decided to pick 30. And, of course, we expect to see Michelle Obama there -- after all she's not just the First Lady. But joining that distinguished group of moms who are presidents and vice presidents of companies, teachers and health care workers is Theresa Heaney, personnel manager of Wal-Mart Store 2740 in New Tampa.
According to the magazine, Heaney raised $9,000 for a special needs playground to be constructed at her son's school. Heaney is a single Momma to 6-year-old Matthew, who is autistic. "Theresa doesn't shy away from a struggle, whether it's getting the best care for her son, helping families affected by the disease find support or negotiating the needs of managers and hourly employees at Wal-Mart,'' the magazine said. Heaney, who will celebrate her 20th anniversary at Wal-Mart in May, will be honored along with the other women at Working Mother’s 30th birthday party on May 8 in New York City.
Heaney, 40, says she was completely surprised by the honor. She was nominated by her mother Joyce Vanermine, who lives with Heaney and her son. Apparently, her mom sent in the nomination sometime around Christmas.
Being the mom of a special needs child has been difficult, Heaney said. "Because it is a communication issue, it is difficult (because) you don't get the paybacks as a parent. They either don't come or are delayed,'' she said. "When you buy a special gift, you don't get that excitement that other kids have."
Matthew, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3 1/2, does know a little about the honor for his mom. He doesn't fully understand, she said, "but we were looking at the picture of him and mommy in the magazine."
The difficulties haven't been enough to make her want to change her life, she said. "There was a time in my life that I used to pray for someone to love me unconditionally, for who I am forever," she said. "And until I had my son, I used to think that (I was praying for) an adult." She now says that her son gives her that unconditional love she has always wanted.
Being a single mom also has presented some challenges but she could not have succeeded without her mom. "Mom is retired and that has been a God send," she said because it would have been hard trying to put Matthew in a regular day care setting. "I couldn't do it without her. She's an awesome mom."
Heaney was squeamish about traveling to New York for the luncheon. "I was a little leery about it because I haven't traveled a lot,'' she said. "But it should be an exciting event." She adds that she is looking forward to meeting some of the other honorees. (Mrs. Obama has not yet sent in her RSVP for the event, a spokeswoman for Working Mother said Tuesday.)
Of course, getting there wasn't always a done deal. But that's where her Wal-Mart family stepped in to help. "Being a single mom, there isn't always a lot of money. Associates in my store held a luncheon to raise money to help me with the plane ticket (and expenses)," she said. "I told them they didn’t have to but that I appreciated it.''
Heaney said that the staff really made her feel appreciated. "My son comes in here. They see me, they see the struggles I have being the parent of a special needs child and they do help him and talk to him," she said. "They told me that I am as much a parent to them as I am to (Matthew)'' because of her job as personnel manager.
Next stop for Heaney: shopping. She'll buy some new clothes for her trip to New York. "I've got clothes for Florida,'' she said. "But I've heard that even in May, it can be a little chilly up there."
-- Sherry Robinson
[Photo: In this photo from Working Mother magazind, that's Theresa Heaney, right, with her son Matthew and her mom Joyce Vanermine.]