Mothers make society work. Many are amazing professionals, wise teachers and nurturing caretakers. They’re perhaps the closest thing we have to superheroes. And what do superheroes do when we need their help most? They save the day!
Like millions of others, many incredible mothers have been saving the day during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Whether they’re working on the frontlines themselves, supporting others who do or helping us all keep it together, these heroic mothers deserve shoutouts — and plenty of our appreciation.
Megan Benjamin is the proud mother of three children, the eldest of whom is nearing junior high. Although being a mother is a full-time job in itself, she also works the night shift, and her usual 12-hour shifts steadily crept up to 13 hours (or often more). Why?
Benjamin is a nurse in the COVID-19 unit of a major hospital in New Jersey. While working with high-risk patients in the early days of the pandemic, her children started staying with her parents. For several days a week, her only contact with them was through FaceTime.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Megan Jessen was a kindergarten teacher and mother of two young daughters. Once the pandemic hit, she started running a much larger virtual classroom: one with 88,000 students. She began posting one-hour kindergarten classes to her public Facebook group for the benefit of her friends. Soon, a friend invited a friend, and those friends invited friends until her classroom roster grew exponentially.
While children were unable to attend school in person, this mom went above and beyond to create an amazing kindergarten experience online for kids around the country. Jessen even wrote original songs to teach the children.
Debbie Allen is a renowned dancer, actress, producer and all-around entertainer. She’s also the mother of three successful children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she used her talents to bring fun exercise and a welcome distraction to millions of people.
Allen not only hosted free dance classes on Instagram live, but she also launched an Instagram profile called the Debbie Allen Dance Academy where other instructors and students can do the same. With so many children and adults temporarily unable to attend dance classes in person, learning from a professional of Allen’s caliber became a welcome diversion.
Angelina Friedman is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to many descendants. She also happens to be a centenarian, and that’s not even the most interesting thing about her. When Mrs. Friedman was a young child, she was born on an immigrant passenger ship during a voyage from Italy to the United States. Later, she survived both cancer and COVID-19.
Friedman contracted COVID-19 when she was a resident at a Westchester nursing home — not once, but twice. Much to the relief of her many relatives, she survived, and her viral story continues to bring smiles to people all over the world.
Liz Koto lives in a Detroit neighborhood that has plenty of sidewalks, and she also understood her community’s need for laughter during early coronavirus lockdowns. That’s why she posted a sign outside of her home asking neighbors to put on a show by doing their silliest walk as they passed by.
Her family enjoyed passing time by seeing how many silly walkers they could spot. This may seem like a small gesture, but in times like these, warming someone’s heart can go a long way.
Many parents-to-be dream of those initial moments when they can hold their firstborn child, but Iris Nolasco sacrificed that once-in-a-lifetime moment to keep her newborn daughter, Isabella, safe. While in her third trimester of pregnancy, Nolasco contracted COVID-19.
Due to complications from the virus, she was forced to give birth via an emergency cesarean section. After nearly a month of separation, Nolasco and her daughter, Isabella, were finally able to spend time together. Iris continued wearing a mask around her baby in accordance with her doctor’s orders, but nothing can break incredibly strong mother-daughter bonds like this one.
When things got tough at the beginning of the pandemic, Michelle Obama stepped up to remind all of us — especially kids — that everything was going to be alright. As a fun distraction (and to help kids develop an interest in reading) she began hosting free read-alongs that were posted on PBS Kids’ social media profiles. During these livestreams, Obama read memorable children’s books for kids across the country in her calm and confident voice.
In addition to pure entertainment, these reading sessions provided a measure of normalcy for young children struggling to understand why they weren’t in school anymore. Storytime is a beloved part of the school day for children young and old. Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear great books read by such a wonderful role model?
Pamela Orlando was a nurse and mother who passed away due to COVID-19. Before her death, she made a very thoughtful choice that did untold good for coronavirus research. For nearly a month, she recorded a video diary of her symptoms.
At times, she could barely speak because the virus had severely damaged her lungs. She was completely incapable of speaking in her final videos. Although they’re heart-wrenching to watch, these videos have helped doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of the illness. Her family also raised money to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical professionals in her honor.
Dr. Theresa Green
Dr. Theresa Green is a mother and emergency room physician. When her ex-husband petitioned for custody of their young daughter, she temporarily lost custody due to fears her child would potentially contract the virus during time spent at Dr. Green’s home.
While continuing to work on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic, Green tirelessly fought to regain custody of her daughter. The American Medical Association’s stance was that healthcare workers can safely share a home with family when proper safety precautions are taken, so Green appealed the ruling. Her decision to fight could set a legal precedent for thousands of other medical worker parents.
Zenobia Shepherd was forced to navigate one of the worst pains a parent can experience: Her daughter, Leilani, was one of the first people in Maryland to die of COVID-19. Leilani was a greeter in a large grocery store, and her family believes she contracted the virus at work.
Shepherd began speaking out even while she was still grieving. By sharing her daughter’s story with the media, she brought attention to the lack of protection for workers, which ultimately led some large chains to improve their policies. Shepherd’s fight in honor of Leilani’s memory also led Maryland officials to declare March 5 the state’s official COVID-19 Day of Remembrance.
Kristen King is a nurse, mother and wife. One of her most important patients was one she likely never wished to care for: her own husband. After contracting COVID-19, he had a five-day hospital visit before he returned home to be cared for by his wife.
While wearing hospital-grade PPE, King attended to her husband before methodically sanitizing herself and caring for her children. She chronicled her family’s ordeal via video to show that the disease can affect younger people as well. Her videos also provided excellent explanations about ways familial caregivers could keep themselves safe.
Christina Aguilera is not just an iconic entertainer, but is also a caring mother and philanthropist. She used her celebrity status to promote The Shade Tree of Las Vegas, a domestic violence shelter for women and children.
Once people began sheltering in place, many nonprofits saw their donations dry up. Still, organizations like The Shade Tree needed funds and supplies more than ever, as widespread job loss and isolation also exacerbated domestic violence across the world. By donating her own money and calling attention to the charity, Aguilera helped shine a light on this unexpected side effect of the pandemic.
Diana Berrent lives with her young children and immunocompromised husband. Although she developed a dry cough for several days, it nearly took an act of Congress for her to get tested for COVID-19.
When she was denied a test at multiple urgent care facilities, she took to social media to try to find help. After gaining lots of attention on social media, her local Congressperson helped her get tested, and she was positive. After recovering, she started Survivor Corps to encourage other survivors to donate blood and plasma to help medical researchers better understand the disease and find effective treatments.
Shatarra Williams faced a tough situation that became familiar to many mothers around the world during the pandemic. She became unemployed after everyone at her job was laid off due to COVID-19. Williams is a single mother of three young girls.
She described taking care of her children while school was out as a time-consuming yet worthy task. When her girls were napping, she took time to tirelessly apply for jobs, all the while maintaining a positive attitude. It takes a heroic woman to keep it together in this kind of difficult situation.
Ruth the Runner
Like countless other events, marathons across the world were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Runners in England took this opportunity to run in and around their homes to raise money for charity. One of them, Ruth, was in her late 80s when she started self-isolating with her three adult children — and helping charities.
Ruth and her children successfully completed a 4,000 lap challenge in 10 hours. The money they raised from participating in the challenge went towards research for myeloma, a disease that one of Ruth’s sons lives with. Ruth is one great athlete and one amazing mom!
Serena Williams is a tennis legend and the mother of a beautiful baby girl. In the first few months after most countries started practicing social distancing, her slate of tennis matches was canceled. Williams, however, didn’t let that hold her back.
Serena Williams signed on to join a live event on the Facebook Gaming app with tennis stars and other celebrities playing Mario Tennis. And, the event raised more than $1 million for a variety of charities.
Dr. Deborah Birx
In the early days of the pandemic, many parents just wanted to hold their children close. Dr. Deborah Birx did, too, but she sacrificed time with her loved ones to lend her medical expertise to the fight against the coronavirus. Birx is a physician who has done extensive research in the field of HIV and AIDS immunology.
In 2020 she served as a member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, where she regularly appeared in public television briefings that helped break down emerging medical data in terms the public could understand. Her addresses helped the public differentiate between fact and fiction and hear what scientists recommended people do to slow the spread of the virus.
Brooke Thomas and her children lived in Williston, Vermont. Before most other schools shut down, schools in her area were already closed temporarily for a deep clean after a faculty member tested positive for COVID-19.
The custodial staff were working long shifts while wearing protective equipment, handling dangerous chemicals and unexpectedly putting themselves on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight. After making a Facebook post about their brave and important efforts, Thomas decided to back up her words by raising money for the janitorial team. Her efforts led to a $7,000 gift for them.
Maye Musk is Elon Musk’s mom. Although she has a famous son, the model, who’s in her 70s, is also famous in her own right. She used this platform to raise money for unemployed people in the fashion industry.
Spring is usually a busy time for models, designers and other fashion industry workers, but in 2020, all of the most well-known events were canceled, leaving many people out of work. Through an organization called A Common Thread, Musk challenged fellow models to post videos of themselves strutting in their homes to raise money.
Dr. Anna Zimmerman
While parents are often more at risk of contracting the coronavirus than their kids are, even young children can sometimes end up with the virus. Dr. Anna Zimmerman’s 4-year-old son was diagnosed with COVID-19, and while he’s healthy today, he had to fight hard against the disease.
He spent several days in the hospital, and Zimmerman stayed with him while her husband cared for their other children. Zimmerman carefully chronicled her son’s symptoms via video, ultimately helping other parents learn what to look for and what to expect if their children contracted the virus.
Lisa Jamieson is a mother of two, and she was inspired to help when she saw that healthcare workers in her area were making huge sacrifices with dwindling supplies. Jamieson, a talented baker, decided to auction off a cake on a website called JustGiving to raise money for healthcare workers.
In true coronavirus fashion, she baked the cake in the shape of a toilet paper roll with the words “Stay Home” written in icing. Thanks to nearly 300 people, Jamieson was able to raise $2,681 for the Milton Keynes Hospital.
Eliza Burgess is the proud mother of Steven Burgess, a 7 year old with a big heart. Her son was inspired by all of the sacrifices people in the medical community were making, and he wanted to help out. He decided to run a mini-marathon in his backyard to raise money.
Eliza helped Steven get his message out to the world by sharing it for him on social media. It took him six hours to run the mini-marathon, and he was able to raise $1,500 with his mother’s support. He received almost 40,000 views.
Silvia Leroy is a nurse and mother of two. She was pregnant with her second child when the pandemic started, but she gave no thought to taking time off. She worked at the hospital of an underserved community and felt compelled to keep helping.
After contracting coronavirus herself, Leroy experienced a premature birth and brain damage from a temporary loss of oxygen. Despite these complications, Leroy’s husband and sister helped her with a GoFundMe page, and her recovery continues.
Most mothers would go to any lengths to protect their children, and Fang Lulu is no exception. She lives in an area of China where lockdown precautions had been lifted, but she still wanted her sons to have extra protection.
Her husband crafted special astronaut protective suits for her 2 year old and 2 month old boys so they could safely go outside again. This mom did her best to keep her children’s lives as normal and safe as possible — spacesuits and all.
Krissy Hamilton is a supportive mother who’s been helping her innovative children make a difference. She and her husband felt it was important for their children to understand the economic toll the pandemic had on people who were unable to work from home, so they took special care to teach them about the struggles other people were facing.
After understanding the situation, the Hamilton children felt compelled to do something. They asked their parents to help them set up a GoFundMe page, which they used to raise over $3,700 for workers. Krissy says she’s amazed by her children’s initiative.
Christianne Klein co-authored the book Anna and the Germ That Came to Visit with her mother, Helene van Sant-Klein, who is a nurse and family therapist. The book explains the coronavirus in simple terms that young children can understand.
Klein was concerned about how to explain the pandemic to her young daughter. While there are children’s books about a variety of other tough subjects, none existed on living through a pandemic. By writing the book, Klein and Sant-Klein helped other parents put their own children at ease.
Pink is a talented musician whose career has spanned decades, and she’s also a mother of two. The coronavirus pandemic has been a very personal experience for Pink, as both she and her 3-year-old son contracted the virus.
She detailed on social media how the two of them battled for nearly a month with 100-degree fevers. Despite this, she took time to support philanthropic efforts by participating in the online Chat and Feed series, which raises money for people dealing with food insecurity. She also donated $50,000 to Temple University Hospital.
Masks are key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), and many essential workers were running out of them as COVID-19 became more widespread. Organizations across the world, from hospitals to grocery stores, called on the kindness of the public to help them protect employees by donating homemade masks.
Chrissy Merulla answered that call. In normal times, the mother of two teenagers teaches special education, but after the pandemic began, she chose to spend her days sewing countless masks. She even attached kind notes to some of the masks. As a former volunteer EMT, this project was very close to her heart.
Michelle Brassard is a mother of two who noticed that seniors in her community were unable to benefit from food banks and delivery services. Because of their vulnerability to the virus and the restrictions on many senior residences, many older people couldn’t safely get food when the pandemic started.
That’s why Brassard got permission to turn the car dealership where she worked into a drive-through foodbank. Because of her efforts, seniors in her area were able to get the food they needed without exposing themselves to crowds.
Some people with developmental disabilities require visits from in-home caregivers, and the COVID-19 pandemic complicated that process largely due to stay-at-home orders. Brianna Donofrio, however, wouldn’t let a mere pandemic stop her from providing help to her community.
Normally, Donofrio is an administrator for a program that provides in-home services. While she continued to perform her job from home, she also stepped up to work as a caregiver herself while raising her two children.