Since 2000, Tu Nidito has been honoring mothers in our community who go above and beyond in their efforts to make a difference in the lives of children and families. Some of these women have overcome personal obstacles with serious medical conditions or grief. Others have made a profound impact on children and families in need. They all have one thing in common – they are Remarkable Moms. These special women are role models for their children and our community, and Tu Nidito is honored to recognize and thank them for the positive mark they leave on those around them.
Letting nothing get her down, native Tucsonan, Erin Achilles was diagnosed with Mastocytosis, a type of red blood cell disorder which requires emergency injections of epinephrine to prevent anaphylaxis shock. Erin and her husband, also her high school sweetheart, Jon have four children, Gavin, Claire, Jackson and Hannah, all under the age of nine, three of which have special medical needs. Erin says, “Being my children’s advocate has been my favorite and most compelling part of being a Mom.” After fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a professional singer and studio recording artist, Erin worked to fulfill another dream by becoming a Trauma ICU Nurse at Banner University Medical Center. She has also worked as an Occupational Nurse at Raytheon Missile Systems and as a Chemo Therapy Administration Nurse at Arizona Oncology. Active in the community, Erin has volunteered for The Pastime Players, a specially gifted performing group for people with disabilities and has served on the volunteer board of Diamond Children’s. Erin constantly gives of herself beyond her family by shopping for elderly friends, working in her children’s classrooms, and taking on special projects. Though grief and heartache is constant in Erin’s life, she is still able to maintain her joy, sense of humor and advocacy for her children because of the love and support of her husband Jon.
“The best part of motherhood is watching your children become amazing, intuitive parents,” says Linda Breck. A native New Yorker, she moved to Tucson in her teens. Her University of Arizona degree was obtained between marriage and the birth of her second child. Her three children, Bill, Amy and Wendy, have brought her not only joy but six delightful grandchildren. Her philanthropic work includes serving as President of the Junior League of Tucson, President of the Ronald McDonald Board of Trustees and Board Member of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. She is also a founding member of the Tucson Parks Foundation. Linda worked for several years as promotions Director at Tucson Lifestyle magazine and then turned her considerable talents to the YWCA of Tucson as Director of Women’s Leadership. She spearheaded a variety of leadership conferences and programs. She also mentored and encouraged women to achieve their professional and personal goals. Linda returned to the UofA to complete a master’s degree in counseling, graduating with honors. In 1995 she was diagnosed with AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion 12 years earlier. As one of only 17 women living with the illness in Pima County at the time, no doubt this moment defined who she is. It brought all of her remarkable qualities and skills into play. She met the challenge, magnificently, with grace and acceptance.
It was not until Angel Lock became a mother that she quickly learned that her lifelong passion had been realized. Arizona native, Angel and her husband Marc were blessed with a daughter Emma and later, a son, Chase, who at 2 ½ years of age, was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma, a very rare and aggressive brain cancer. Together, Angel and her daughter began Lock Boxes of Love, a charity dedicated to the lives of the siblings of pediatric cancer patients, helping them to feel equally special. Angel attended the University of Phoenix and received her master’s degree in Global Business Management. During her time working in the financial services industry, she volunteered at several organizations in support of the homeless. Angel also volunteered at the University Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital where she enjoys visiting and bringing smiles to the patients by dressing as a clown, princess and children’s characters. Faith and prayer has kept this family strong and they adopted a motto early on in the tragedy, “4 IN, 4 OUT.” Marc says, “We are committed as a family of four, the battle is ours, and we will fight together and emerge victorious together.”
Jana Westerbeke is an extraordinary mother to her two daughters, Wylie and Wagner, and loving wife and business partner to her husband, Frank. Jana has lived in Tucson since 1979 and spent a great deal of her life learning from and working side by side with her mother, helping to create the vision and philosophy that is Gadabout. As an internationally recognized hairdresser since 1980 and President and Director of Guest Relations at Gadabout SalonSpas, Jana carries on the high standards of excellence instilled in her by her mother. In 2006, Gadabout sponsored an in-house salon at the new Peter & Paula Fasseas Cancer Center at UMC North. There, Gadabout staff members donate their services to patients in need of wig styling due to hair loss. On this and countless other occasions, Jana has inspired others to share their talents to benefit the community. She has received several awards honoring her work with many Tucson charities including Tu Nidito, The Boys and Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity and many more. “I am here to coach and lead so others can succeed,” says Jana. “When others reach their goals, it is my hope that they will want to ‘pay it forward’ to continue the growth cycle in this world we are blessed to live in.” She is a shining example for her daughters and her vision and passion for life will continue to influence others for years to come.
Born in Nogales, Arizona, Marcella Padres Villaseñor obtained an associate’s degree from Pima Community College and later became a University of Arizona graduate with honors from the College of Education. In 1999, Marcella and her husband Alfonso were blessed with the news of twins. Not long after, they were told that one of the twins was suffering from Potter’s Syndrome, a condition that causes the kidneys to fail to develop properly. Their twin daughter died when Marcella was 8 months pregnant. Despite the painful loss, Marcella chose to focus on the joy and happiness of the other twin, Alfonso. Marcella’s favorite part of being a mom is seeing her son thrive in life as a caring young man who is not afraid to take risks. As one who continues to overcome her own challenges, Marcella faced her battle with breast cancer in 2010 with a positive outlook. When family, friends, colleagues and students expressed worry, she would comfort them while maintaining focus on her life-long passion for teaching. For 18 years, Marcella has taught at Roberts-Naylor K-8 School which is known for its troubled neighborhood. Many of her students have faced challenges that children should not have to face. She tirelessly works to ensure that all of her students make progress academically and emotionally despite their situations. Marcella leads by example and is a true inspiration to all who know her.