Meet Fabulous’ Mum of the Year 2020 and two inspirational runners-up – The Sun
This January, we launched our search for the UK’s most inspirational mothers for our second annual Mum of the Year competition – and the response was incredible.
With over 3,000 entries to sift through, we finally whittled it down to a shortlist of 15 brilliant mums who go above and beyond.
Then our celebrity judging panel – Good Morning Britain’s Kate Garraway, bestselling author Giovanna Fletcher, The One Show’s Angellica Bell and The Sun columnist and author Deborah James – selected our ultimate mum to win a break for two to Champneys Spa including treatments from the Bronze Collection, and two runners-up, who have both nabbed £250 goodie bags and afternoon tea for two with bubbles.
“I couldn’t believe how high the standard was,” Kate says.
“The three mums we picked all do so many exceptional things that they stood out.
“I’m bowled over by how much they give back to their families and communities.”
Giovanna adds: “It’s always an emotional experience judging these awards.
“As mums, we are constantly doubting ourselves, so it was really touching to see so many being appreciated.
“Judging them was tough, but the winner is a truly remarkable woman.”
THE WINNER: ‘I wanted to help teenagers leaving the care system’
JEMMA Lee Johnson, 57, is retired and lives in Canvey Island with husband Stuart, 55. She was nominated by daughter Sammy Jay, 29.
Sammy Jay says: “Not only did Mum work in the NHS, she also brought up five kids, and for 13 years has fostered 16-18 year olds.
“She was a single parent, but never showed any stress, and is one of those people who, if you’re in trouble, you can always go to.
“I’m so lucky to call her my mum.”
Jemma says: “I’ve been in shock since finding out I’d won – I had no idea that Sammy Jay had entered me! “Throughout my life I’ve loved caring for others, and though I was a single mum from 1997 to Sammy and her siblings – Rick, now 39, Bradley, 37, Carrie-Ann, 33, and Tyler, 22 – I was happy.
"Motherhood was all I wanted to do.
“Things weren’t always easy.
“I juggled a job in the NHS, driving elderly people to their hospital appointments, and worked overtime.
“The only way I coped was with a good childminder!
“When I met my husband Stuart in 2004, it was lovely to have some support.
“Soon after Stuart moved in with me in 2005, we began to consider fostering.
“I’d always wanted to do it, but we hadn’t had the space until my sons Rick and Bradley left home, leaving us with a spare room.
“When I heard about a scheme called Supported Lodgings, where you take in kids aged 16-18 who have been in care and help them learn how to become independent, it sounded perfect.
“I wanted to give them the support they need at that age.
“They tend to be left to fend for themselves after leaving care at 16, so they aren’t armed with many life skills, like being able to cook, clean, budget or apply for jobs.
“My own kids were enthusiastic about us fostering, as they all enjoyed being part of a large family.
“Plus, when they were growing up, if any of their friends had problems, my door was always open.
“ felt like we were extending the family.
"After four months of visits from social workers, we were interviewed by a panel then approved to take teenagers in 2007.
“Over the years, we’ve looked after eight teenagers long-term, with several more for shorter-term placements, and some have become part of the family.
"Of course, there have been challenges – at one point in 2016, I thought I couldn’t do it any more.
“Many teenagers are very challenging because they’ve been let down so badly and have issues with rejection, so it’s hard to build up a rapport with them. But I’ve persevered and it’s been worth it.
"In the last couple of years, I’ve been looking after a lot of young asylum seekers from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Nigeria, and it’s lovely because they’re so happy to be here.
“They’ve all experienced trauma, but they just want to begin a new life.
"Stuart and I got married in 2018, and I was so pleased when three of my foster children attended.
“I just can’t believe that Sammy put me forward for the award – and that I won!
"I’ll be taking her to Champneys with me – she has three kids and deserves some time out.
“I’ve been looking after others my entire life, so for once, I’ll put my feet up and let other people take care of me!”
RUNNER-UP: ‘My daughter asked why I don’t have autism superpowers like she does’
CHARLEY-ANNE Semple, 28, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in Thurrock, Essex, with husband Danny, 30, and children Tyler, seven, and Annabella Rose, five. She was nominated by Danny.
Danny says: “My wife is an amazing mum to our children, who have autism.
“Charley-Anne suffers with her physical health, too, but she never gives up.
“No matter how much pain she’s in, she always helps others and is the first to say how lucky she is.
“She’s the strongest woman I know.”
Charley-Anne says: “It means so much that Danny nominated me.
“As a special needs mum, I often feel quite isolated, so it’s lovely that my efforts are being noticed, and I’ll be taking my mum Ingrid, 46, with me to afternoon tea to celebrate.
“I met Danny in 2008, aged 16.
“Tyler was born in 2013 and Annabella Rose in 2015, before we married the following year.
“Tyler was the first to be diagnosed with autism when he was four years old.
"We noticed he wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour, would spin in circles and hum, had no sense of danger and low sensitivity to touch.
“When doctors told us Tyler also has Tourette’s and ADHD, I decided to learn as much as I could to help him.
“Annabella was diagnosed at three – she’d line up her toys, get anxious in busy places, and needed a rigid routine. “After her diagnosis, Dan was upset, and asked if it was something we’d done wrong, but I reassured him it wasn’t our fault – autism is in their genetic make-up.
"It’s been very full-on.
“It’s hard when Tyler is screaming in the playground, or we’re in the supermarket and he’s trying to lick things.
“It means we get stared at and can’t always go to other children’s birthday parties.
“I’ve also had to battle to get the kids special educational needs lessons, and right now I’m at the Royal Courts of Justice fighting to get Tyler a place at a school in Kent, because there are no schools in Essex that can cater for his needs.
“We can’t do spontaneous things, like pop to the shops, but we make things work by being organised.
“In 2017, Danny was diagnosed with Asperger’s, which is on the autism spectrum, and he struggles in social situations.
“Recently, Annabella told me she was sad because I didn’t have autism superpowers like the rest of the family, which made me laugh.
“I’m in constant pain from my health issues, including fibromyalgia, scoliosis, winged scapula, and Crohn’s disease, so I often use a wheelchair.
“I also have insomnia, but Tyler hardly sleeps, so we read stories together.
“It’s like my body is falling apart, but our kids bring us so much joy.
“To me, I’m a normal mum and it’s my children that make me special.”
Visit Autism.org.uk for more information
RUNNER UP: ‘It was so hard being a single mum after my partner was killed’
WENDY Lemar, 49, from east London, is mum to Cassandra, 28, Andre, 22, and Dequan, eight. She was nominated by Cassandra.
Cassandra says: “Growing up, we didn’t have much, but I had an incredible childhood.
“Mum’s a great cook, so we’d spend time making cakes together.
“It wasn’t easy for her, but she made life fun and I have such great memories.
"In the last few years, Mum’s been ill and is still in a lot of pain, but she’s fought back and is always smiling.
“Now she’s about to get her degree in youth justice, which makes me so proud.
“When I’m a mum, I’d like to be just like her.”
Wendy says: “I became a single mum in 1998, when Cassandra was six and Andre was just nine months.
“The kids had no further contact with their dad and life was hard, but at the same time it was a joy.
“We’d do arts and crafts together, have pyjama days at the weekend, go sightseeing in London and head to Butlin’s on holiday.
“I worked full-time in the NHS as a ward clerk then a medical records manager until 2012, while my mum Stephanie, now 83, helped with childcare.
“It was exhausting, but I liked to be around people and loved to see them getting better from illnesses.
“After meeting my partner Nigel in 2007, we went on to have my youngest, Dequan, in 2011, after which I left the NHS.
“I then started an Open University degree in youth justice, with the hope of working with young people in the probation services.
“Tragically, in 2015, Nigel was killed in a car crash, aged 52, and I became a single mum again.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve been through and I was very depressed after he died.
“I almost threw in the towel on my degree, but luckily Cassandra urged me to carry on.
“In May 2018, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and prescribed medication.
“However, it wasn’t properly monitored, and it caused my pancreas to create too much sugar, which made me go into a diabetic coma.
“Andre found me unconscious at home, and I was admitted to hospital for 10 days.
“When I came out of the coma, I was told I had gangrene in my toe, but thankfully the doctors didn’t have to amputate.
“Since then, I’ve been in constant pain with my toe, which makes it hard to shower or walk.
“Despite all of this, I’m determined to complete my degree, as I want to make young peoples’ lives better.
“I feel honoured to have come runner-up, and I’ll be taking Cass for afternoon tea as part of my prize.
“To me, I’m just a mum and I just do what a mum is supposed to do.
“Without my kids, I’d be lost, and although it’s been a struggle at times, I wouldn’t have my life any other way.”
Kate Garraway, 52
The GMB presenter is mum to Darcey, 12, and 10-year-old Billy.
Giovanna Fletcher, 35
The author/vlogger is mum to Buzz, five, Buddy, three, and Max 17 months.
Angellica Bell, 42
The One Show presenter is a mum of two young children.
Deborah James, 38
The author and Sun Online columnist is mum to Hugo, 12, and Eloise, nine.
Hair & make-up: Chloe Dixon
Styling: Salome Munuo
Jemma wears: dress, Phase Eight; shoes, Primark; bracelet, stylist’s own
Charley-Anne wears: jumpsuit, Boohoo.com; shoes, New Look; jewellery, stylist’s own
Wendy wears: jumpsuit, Boohoo.com; shoes, New Look; jewellery, stylist’s own