Marlene Pannenbecker is a role-model for moms everywhere.
On Oct. 20, Pannenbecker was announced as the 2014 Mom of the Year Community Champion category winner in Walmart’s Mom of the Year contest.
Pannenbecker said that she was surprised and very excited when she was informed about her winning.
“When they initially called me, because I never expected it, I did a little scream and a dance,” said Pannenbecker.
In July, when she was announced as a finalist, Pannenbecker said it was unlikely that she would win the contest as she thought she was too far behind the leader in votes to win. However, that was when Pannenbecker was unaware that there would be more than one first place winner announced.
It actually wasn’t long after she was announced as a finalist that Pannenbecker was made aware she would be one of those winners. She was sworn to secrecy, with the exception of being able to tell her family and closest friends, until the announcement was made official this week.
Initially, when she was first made aware of her nomination, Pannenbecker said she was actually a little embarrassed about it. She said she has kind of become used to the idea, but the whole experience is still a bit strange to her.
“I think I’ve come to terms with it, my friends all tell me that I should embrace it, enjoy it and be happy about it, which I am,” said Pannenbecker. “It’s just not my nature to be in the spotlight, but I’m getting used to it. I’m not embarrassed by it, I’m more humbled.”
As a result of the contest, Pannenbecker will receive $10,000 for herself and $10,000 to go to the charity of her choice. Pannenbecker has chosen Dominican Feed the Kids to be the charity that will receive the donation.
Dominican Feed the Kids is a charity that is close to Pannenbecker’s heart for a number of reasons. It is through her families’ work with Dominican Feed The Kids that she met her four adopted children from the Dominican Republic. The charity is run by Pannenbecker’s sister and brother-in-law.
Not only is the donation to Dominican Feed the Kids important to Pannenbecker, it’s important to her family and especially her children. The four youngest of Pannenbeckers’ seven children were all adopted from the Dominican Republic.
Pannenbecker said it has always been maintained in her family that her children’s roots are not forgotten. She has also instilled in her family the importance of giving back.
“I think the one thing that I’m proudest of is the fact that all seven of our kids have hearts of gold, they would give to anyone,” said Pannenbecker. “That is their motto in life, “help others,” because we have been helped a lot and I’m proud of that part.”
As such, Pannenbecker’s children were equally excited about the award and did not question at all where it was going, she said.
Pannenbecker added that Dominican Feed the Kids has taken on an even more special meaning since the death of her son Damian, who was killed in a crash near Olds earlier this year at the young age of 19. Marlene said that her sister and Damian were very close and the charity always meant a lot to Damian.
“It would mean a lot (to Damian) to know that the money we have won has gone back (to Dominican Feed the Kids),” said Marlene.
Dominican Feed the Kids is of course not the only benefactor from Marlene’s award. In July, she said she was at a bit of a loss with what to do with her own $10,000 award should she win.
Now that she has been announced a winner, Marlene’s friends have stepped up and helped her decide. As January will be a very difficult month for the Pannenbeckers with the anniversary of Damian’s death, Marlene’s friends have organized a “girls’ trip” to Mexico with Marlene and 15 of her friends during that month.
Marlene said the vacation will be an interesting change as when she takes vacations herself with her family, they usually take working vacations and work with Dominican Feed the Kids.