Local mom Susi Vander Wyk was crowned Walmart's 2013 Mom of the Year from a nationwide contest, and received $100,000 toward a charity of her choice.
The mother of three beat out seven other finalists for the grand title in Toronto last weekend.
The $100,000 was given to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Canada, of which Vander Wyk has been the president for two years.
The organization raises funds for research and to support families with children who have the condition.
"I hope this award will show you how much you mean not only to me, but everyone you meet," said Vander Wyk's daughter, Holli, on Facebook. "You do so much for others, it's time to do something for yourself. You are not only mom of the year, you are mom of the century to me."
Vander Wyk's philanthropic journey began 14 years ago, after Holli was diagnosed with Type 2 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at two years old.
SMA is the No. 1 genetic killer of children under age two. It is a rare motor neuron disease that affects the nerves' ability to send messages from the brain to the muscles. Over time, the disease weakens muscles used for activities like breathing and swallowing.
After struggling with Holli's harrowing diagnosis for a year, Vander Wyk channeled her energy and started EPIC, a support group for parents of children with disabilities.
While leading EPIC for five years, Vander Wyk also became involved with the Families of SMA Canada, hosting a multitude of fundraisers on behalf of the organization.
But her work doesn't end there, as Vander Wyk has also hosted and facilitated a summer camp at Cultus Lake for the last 14 years for children with SMA from around the globe.
In a previous interview with the Times, Vander Wyk stated the possibility of winning $100,000 for Families of SMA Canada meant more than any title.
"Finding a cure for this disease is paramount. There are parents that don't even know yet that their child has it, and there are parents that haven't even conceived yet that will be going through this horrid pain," Vander Wyk said. "This needs to end."
In addition to a day of pampering in Toronto, Vander Wyk and the seven other finalists were also each awarded $10,000 for themselves.
The other finalists also received $10,000 for a charity of their choice.
Over 24,000 nominations were received for the second annual Mom of the Year Award, which is held to recognize the contributions mothers make to their families and communities.
- with files from Cornelia Naylor
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