Our visit to Perry, Florida even drew attention from the local newspaper and was a little overwhelming for Big Bend's Best Mom finalist Mary Jo Weirick.
Mary Jo says, “I was very flattered, but it embarrasses me a little bit because I don't feel like I do anything most moms don't do.”
But that's not what her family will tell you. This 50-year-old Pizza Hut manager has a lot of admirers.
Her daughter Melissa Richardson says, "She's been my best friend my whole life, my best friend."
Mary Jo's daughter Melissa remembers her mom working full-time when she and her two brothers were growing up.
Melissa says, "And then she had side jobs. She'd clean a building before work and then clean one on her way home."
Lee Weirick, Mary Jo's husband, adds, "That's her whole life, taking care of kids, our kids, everybody's kids."
Everybody's kids is right! Even Mary Jo's children say they barely got out of the house before their mom replaced them.
Mary Jo says, “It's true. In fact, I pushed their stuff to the back of the closets and moved the children in.”
Over the years, the mother of three and grandma of two has taken in 12 foster children with special needs.
Linda Peacock, guardian ad litem, says, "They are children that are somewhat at high risk, medical children or children with emotional problems."
Mary Jo currently has a nine and 14-year-old.
“I found I could make a difference in their lives, or hoped I could, and feel I have.”
She feels that way because as the years go by, her foster children come back home. If they have anything significant in life, they want Mary Jo to know about it. She's a rare gem, or an “angel on earth,” as her son-in-law calls her.
Fred Richardson, Mary Jo's son-in-law, says, "I just think I'm a blessed person to be in her presence and a part of her family."
That seems to be the consensus, especially when it comes to the title of the Big Bend's Best Mom.
Clyde Weirick, her son, says, “I think she deserves it. She's done so many things for so many people. It would be nice for her to get something back.”