Maria Blackburn, the 2012 Mom of the Year recipient, sacrificed her free time and energy so her two oldest children could attend WSU.
Maria is the mother of WSU students Bryan Blackburn and Krystal Blackburn Funk. Bryan and Krystal worked together to write the nomination for their mother, Bryan said. The two of them did not think their mother had received the recognition she deserved in the past.
“We just wanted to let her know that we were really grateful and that her work wasn’t going unnoticed,” he said.
The Mom of the Year award began at WSU in the 1920s as a way to recognize the amount of work and commitment mothers put in to their children’s education, said Jordan Keithley, Resident Education Director of Wilmer-Davis and Stevens Halls, and member of the Mom of the Year selection committee.
Maria works as a full-time social worker for the Department of Social and Health Services in the Tacoma area. In addition, she is a care nurse for her youngest son, Derryck. Derryck is 19 and has muscular dystrophy and autism, Bryan said. Muscular dystrophy is a degenerative muscle disease, and autism is a developmental disorder.
Maria said a caregiver comes Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to take care of Derryck while she is at work. When she is at home she helps her son do things he cannot do on his own. When she is not helping Derryck, she is sleeping, she said.
She said Bryan and Krystal knew she would not want to leave Derryck at home for the weekend. She said they secretly spoke with the other nurse to make arrangements for someone to be with Derryck for Mom’s Weekend so their mother could come to Pullman. When they found out she was a finalist, Bryan told her because they knew she wouldn’t come otherwise, Maria said.
“They know it would take an act of Congress to take me away from him for a couple of days,” Maria said.
Bryan said his mom could not believe it when her name was called as the winner during the Mom of the Year Brunch on Saturday. He and his sister spoke about why they nominated their mom during the banquet. He said it was nice to give her the recognition she deserved.
“She’s been sacrificing a lot of her free time, a lot of her energy and everything so that me and my sister can continue on our education while she stays at home as a single parent taking care of a son with disabilities,” he said.
Maria said she could not believe she won because she does what she does out of love for her son. She said all the nominees were great mothers.
“I do what a lot of mothers do in the situation,” she said. “We just don’t think; we just do it. There are no other options.”
As part of the award, Maria received two tickets to the Kelly Clarkson concert Saturday night. She said she had planned to be home by 8 p.m. to relieve the nurses but Bryan and her son-in-law, Krystal's husband, insisted she go to the concert with Krystal while the two of them drove home instead.
She said it was hard for her youngest son not having her be at home.
“He kept saying ‘Mommy, mommy be here. Mommy be here,'” she said.
Bryan said he was glad his mom was able to have a break and spend the night out.
Maria said she is extremely proud of her kids and all of their accomplishments. Derryck is an amazing human being and Krystal and Bryan both make her laugh but are also very responsible, she said.
“I could not have asked for better children,” she said.
Keithley said the selection committee is composed of four students along with Kim Barrett from the Women’s Resource Center and herself. She said they look for nominations with extraordinary stories of sacrifice and what the nominees do in the name of motherhood. She said Bryan and Krystal’s essay was beautifully written and the way the two wrote about the love and care their mother has for Derryck really stood out to the committee.