Marlene Pannenbecker finalist for Mom of the Year

Citizens encouraged to show support as voting closes tomorrow in contest

MOTHER DAUGHTER TIME – Marlene Pannenbecker and her daughter Suza share a moment together.

MOTHER DAUGHTER TIME – Marlene Pannenbecker and her daughter Suza share a moment together.

Local mom Marlene Pannenbecker is in the running to be named this year’s Mom of the Year in an online Walmart contest.

Pannenbecker was nominated for the contest by a friend and didn’t know about the nomination until after she made the list of 20 finalists.

She said her initial reaction to the nomination was actually one of embarrassment.

“I still get a little embarrassed when people talk about it, but my friends have encouraged me just to say, ‘Thank you,’ and be proud of it,” she said.

“So I’m trying really hard to do that but my first reaction was to be very embarrassed.”

Now that she has somewhat gotten over the shock of being nominated and being a finalist, she is becoming more interested in the contest itself.

“It’s amazing, now that I’m in it. I’m a competitive person, so I would love to win.”

If she does win the contest, she will be awarded with $10,000 to go towards the charity of her choice as well as another $10,000 for herself.

Charity funds would go towards Dominican Feed the Kids, a charity she shares a fairly intimate connection with.

In 2010, Pannenbecker, along with her husband Denny and son Damian, went to visit her sister and brother-in-law who were living in the Dominican.

It was through her sister and brother-inlaw, who later took over the program, that Marlene and her family were first exposed to Dominican Feed the Kids. Now, the Pannenbeckers travel to the Dominican a few times a year to help out with Dominican Feed the Kids.

Dominican Feed the Kids is a program that runs thrice weekly in the village of Ascension that feeds 200-300 children each day.

With funds from the Mom of the Year contest, Dominican Feed the Kids would be able to expand its programming to another nearby village that is even more in need of assistance than Ascension.

Dominican Feed the Kids is more to the Pannenbeckers than an important charity. It is also how they met their four adopted children.

While working with Dominican Feed the Kids on that initial trip, Marlene and Damian met a young boy who enthusiastically greeted them as they passed by on their way.

Damian became quite taken with the boy, who the Pannenbeckers later learned was one of six siblings who were orphans.

When the family left the Dominican, Damian had his mother promise that she would do what she could to support the orphaned children.

On later trips, the

Pannenbeckers tried to find the orphaned children a home to live in, but found it wasn’t possible.

So, long story short, the Pannenbeckers returned to the Dominican again and adopted the four younger of the six siblings.

The older two siblings were adopted by a couple from Blackfalds who are friends of the Pannenbeckers, so the siblings still get to see each other quite often.

Together, Marlene has seven children; Brie, 28, Krista, 24, Damian, 19, Carolina, 14, Lubenson, 12, Adnez, 8 and Suza, 6.

In January of this year, Damian was killed in a motor vehicle collision near Olds.

It was a life-shattering event for Marlene, her family and the whole community of Lacombe.

But it didn’t stop Marlene from reaching out to help others.

After her son’s death, Marlene made regular trips to Calgary to visit the other boys who had been in the collision in Calgary. Marlene said it was a way for her to deal with Damian’s death.

“I think it was healing for me,” said Marlene. “And I knew that Damian was always the type of kid that always helped.”

Helping is something that runs in the Pannenbecker family.

Marlene said it has always been important for her and her husband to teach their children to give back when they are fortunate.

“That’s just what we do,” said Marlene.

“A lot of people have helped us and what you get, you give back. So, that’s kind of our motto in life.”

When a memorial for Damian was held, Marlene asked that funds be donated in his memory to the Dominican Feed the Kids.

Since, a fund has been set up in memory of Damian that goes toward Angel Care, a spinoff program of Dominican Feed the Kids that works specifically with malnourished infants.

Marlene is currently in second place for votes in the Mom of the Year contest, but said she is quite a ways behind the leader.

Voting closes tomorrow (July 4th) and can be done online by going to www.momoftheyear.ca.

news@lacombeexpress.com