Kids have struggled with lockdown, I know about loneliness so I’ve made it my mission to make sure everyone has support

WHEN we launched our Mum of the Year 2021 competition, we had a feeling we were going to receive some extra-special nominations – and we weren’t wrong.

During the last year, with its lockdowns, homeschooling and unprecedented challenges, mums have stepped up to the plate, and then some. We received a whopping 4,200 entries, which our panel of celeb judges – Giovanna Fletcher, Kate Garraway, Kate Ferdinand and Ranvir Singh – carefully considered.

“Judging this competition is always hard, but this year even more so,” says Giovanna. “It has been such a tough year for parents and every one of the entries was an inspiration. I am in awe of all the amazing mums, and I am honoured to be a judge and read all their incredible stories.”

New mum – and this issue’s cover star – Kate Ferdinand admits she found judging an emotional experience. “I cried reading their stories – just seeing how much people are going through with hardly any support was heartbreaking,” she says. “It put everything into perspective, and it’s fantastic that we can recognise mums like this and give them a special treat from Fabulous.”

Judge Kate Garraway was even nominated, as she’s been raising her two children alone while husband Derek Draper continues to battle Covid in hospital. Fellow GMB presenter and Strictly star Ranvir says: “I kept changing my mind, they were all special. But in the end, the kindness and selfless nature of the winner and runners-up leapt out.”

After much agonising, they chose our winner: Sherril Wright – a mum, foster carer, student and volunteer. She’s won an overnight stay for two at Champneys with four spa treatments as part of the spa’s Gold Package. Runners-up Katherine Umutoni and Bryony Baynes deserve huge praise, too. Thanks to their passion for helping others, both have nabbed a Champneys goodie bag, plus £300 of high-street shopping vouchers. All hail these wonder women!

When people are frightened or sad, they need human connection

Bryony Baynes, 59, is a headteacher and lives in Gloucestershire. She has three children, Bronwen, 31, Megan, 27, and David, 26. She says:

“In September 2018, my husband Matthew, 56, died of stomach and oesophageal and cancer. I know from experience that when people are frightened and sad they need human connection. 

“Long before Covid, I set up a foodbank at my primary school and we hosted afternoon teas for older people. Then the UK went into lockdown last March, and I was determined the school would continue to help.

“As well as our foodbank, I set up a weekly ‘takeaway’ service from the school kitchen. We charged £2.50 a meal, or nothing if someone couldn’t afford that.

“With many of my pupils learning from home, I appealed to friends and the community for second-hand laptops and tablets so every child would have the technology they needed. Staff and pupils have needed emotional support, too, and their wellbeing has been so important to me.

“Teachers have been exhausted and stressed, and children have struggled with anxiety, missing friends, losing loved ones and knowing their parents have lost jobs. I’ve tried to lead everyone as best I can. 

“In November, I cooked a Thanksgiving meal for 165 people. I grew up in the US, and moved to England when Matthew and I married in 1986. Thanksgiving is a special day for my family, but as Megan and Bronwen, who live near London and in Thailand, couldn’t come home because of the restrictions, I posted on a local Facebook group and so many people wanted to join in with me and my son David.

“A couple of friends and I cooked 20 turkeys, with all the trimmings, plus pecan and pumpkin pies, then people collected their meals or I delivered them.

“Before Matthew was diagnosed, he had a kidney transplant using one of my kidneys, after suffering from the disease for over 20 years.

“He had a brilliant 18 months before his diagnosis, and losing him was the darkest time. But he left me with wonderful children, and the resilience to get through this year. 

“When I found out I was a runner-up, I was stunned – I had no idea Megan had nominated me! I know so many amazing mums and I’m proud to represent them all.”

  • Hair & make-up: Eloise Parker 
  • Styling: Salome Munuo 
  • Bryony wears: dress, Next; bracelets, New Look 

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