While just about everyone’s mom holds a special place in their heart, the moms highlighted in this year’s annual Mother’s Day feature are cherished by more than just a few children or grandchildren. Through their professional careers, volunteer work, or both, they’ve made an impact in the lives of young people throughout the Space Coast and beyond. How do they do it? As mom and grandmother Janet Shaffer explained, “It is so simple. Kids just want to be loved.”
Mother of: James Hoke, 3; Holden John, 3 months
Married to: Backstreet Boys’ Howie Dorough for 5 years
For Leigh Dorough and her husband, Backstreet Boys member Howie Dorough, anonymity is perhaps the best thing about leaving Los Angeles to live in Brevard. “It’s a very normal life for us here. It’s wonderful to be able to jump on our bikes and go to the park.”
Part of living a “normal life” includes being a hands-on mom with no nannies or night nurses, even when their sons were born. “I knew these moments were only going to last so long and being up in the middle of the night with my son, feeding and bonding was very important to me.”
A child psychology major and former film development executive for Warner Brothers, Dorough has always taken an interest in kids. It was her idea to turn the popular mystery series, “Nancy Drew,” into a feature film. “I really wanted to create a positive role model for young girls. I went to my boss and asked about doing ‘Nancy Drew,’ thinking it would be something little girls could look up to because she always had amazing values and always stood behind what she believed in. It was just this purity that was lacking in the movie world.”
Balancing the world of entertainment and family, she still reads scripts as time allows. After James finishes preschool, she and the boys will join Howie as the Backstreet Boys tour the country to promote their 20th anniversary album.
Mother of: Tiana, 22; Lexie, 19
Married to: Tod Byers for 23 years
Resides in: Satellite Beach
Occupation: Teacher, DeLaura Middle School
While daily headlines warn of school clos-ures and budget cuts, at least one DeLaura Middle School teacher still loves her job. With a background in real estate and sales, Sasha Byers made a career change seven years ago and now teaches seventh grade language arts and serves as a student government advisor.
“What I love most is supporting the kids, not just academically, but encouraging them and trying to teach them to be their best and do their best every day,” she said. “I think it’s an honor to be able to stand in the gap for them at this age, when they’re teenagers and they’re going through so many changes emotionally
In a way, Byers’ own children inspired her career change—she spent so much time volunteering at their schools when they were young, she decided she should start getting paid to be there. But she credits her colleagues for making the school a great place to work.
“I have great, great people that I work with—inspirational people who are so generous and caring and giving of their time and are so dedicated and committed. We lift each other up every day. “
Being a mother, working with middle schoolers and also donating time and money to the Brevard Rescue Mission, which takes in homeless women and children, all come naturally to her, she says.
Mother of: Phillip Clark, 26
(pictured here); Madison Clark, 23
Married to: David Clark for 30 years
Indian Harbour Beach
Occupation: Owner, Learning Rx Brain Training Center
When Terri Clark’s son, Phillip, was just eight years old, she was told that his learning disabilities would probably prevent him from graduating high school. That news didn’t sit well. “We knew that God was the one who could define his future. Not us. Not the teachers. But we as parents wanted to give him whatever opportunities we could. We wanted to give him choices.”
From that point on, Clark, who already had a degree in special education and worked with autistic children, dedicated herself to learning as much as she could about attention deficit and auditory processing disorders. She found a 10-week brain training program that helped Phillip complete middle school and high school and even earn a college scholarship, but his auditory processing issues arose again in the lecture-intensive college setting.
By that time, the creator of the brain training program whom the Clarks had visited years before had enhanced the program and created the Learning Rx franchise. With training specific to his auditory issues, Phillip went on to realize his dream of becoming a third generation University of Florida Gator and earned a Master’s degree. His parents opened a Learning Rx location in Melbourne in 2007, working with students of all ages to help them reorganize and create neural pathways that form the basis of cognitive skills.
“We are thankful to be able to share the blessings we’ve had in helping Phillip overcome his learning disabilities with other parents,” said Clark.
Mother of: Lee, 15; Kate, 12
Married to: Bud Deffebach for 25 years
Resides in: Melbourne Beach
Occupation: Licensed Clinical Psychologist
specializing in Children, Adolescents and Families
To some, Dr. Kim Deffebach is known for hosting a heck of a Halloween party, but to the children who attend Club Esteem, she’s been a life saver. More than 15 years ago, Deffebach chaired a Junior League of South Brevard committee to help the non-profit raise enough funds to offer after school programs to disadvantaged children five days a week. Once that goal was achieved, the organization could no longer operate on its previous $200 a year budget. Thus the Deffebach’s Halloween Masquerade fund-raiser was born. After being held at the couple’s home for the last nine years, the event will move to Matt’s Casbah this year.
“Children have so much capacity to survive circumstances and grow and flourish,” Deffebach explained. “This was really something I wanted to do for our community in a large way, to support a place for children who might not have the support that my kids would have, where we could really try to level the playing field.”
As well as hosting the annual Halloween party, Deffebach maintains a part-time practice, provides pro bono counseling services at the Women’s Center and raises two teenagers. In fact, she credits her kids with inspiring her and her Junior League committee to the annual Club Esteem event, which raised $93,000 last year. “A lot of that happened because we were young mothers at the time and we were all so in love with our children, we wanted other kids who were less fortunate to have similar experiences to that.”
Chelsea, 17 stepmother to: Deann, 36; James, 34
Married to: Michael Pruitt for 22 years
Resides in: Melbourne
Occupation: Dental hygienist
Raised by “an amazing mom” and “a great role model,” Kristy Pruitt strives to maintain the same traditional values in her home, such as cooking dinner for the family and making time to eat together. “I feel like that is gathering time. We get to talk about our days and stay connected. That’s probably why we have such a good relationship as a family because we sit down and talk.”
While she works part-time as a dental hygienist, she also spends a great deal of time volunteering at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, where her daughter, Chelsea, is a junior.
“I wanted to stay involved with her and her friends,” she said. “I’ve known most of them since they were three, so it’s really fun for me to spend my time there.”
Although she lost her own mother five years ago, Pruitt still appreciates her mom’s influence on her life. “She loved my dad unconditionally and they passed that love on to us. That’s what I strive to do. We all loved being at home and our friends always came over. And that’s what I love about our home. The kids come over and hang out, and I think all that came from my mom.”
This Melbourne mom is in no hurry for an empty nest and plans to savor every moment until Chelsea goes away to college.
Mother of: Cody, 12
Resides in: Suntree
Occupation: Owner, Oceanbreeze Family Chiropractic & Acupuncture
While Lindy Tolleson and her daughter, Cody, don’t have any set plans yet for this Mother’s Day, one thing is for sure, there will be “lots of laughing.”
As a single mom to one daughter, three dogs and three cats, Tolleson works hard to balance work and play. Since Cody was born, Tolleson has earned two associate degrees, a massage therapy license, a bachelor’s degree in human biology and a doctorate of chiropractic. “I like to learn, I like to know. I think know-ledge is power,” admitted Tolleson. She opened Oceanbreeze Family Chiropractic & Acupuncture in September 2012 after moving to Brevard County three years ago.
Despite the long hours spent in school and now building her own practice, the young doc hopes she is setting a good example for her daughter along the way. “Cody has watched me study a lot and be focused on my goal to get my degree in chiropractic. She watched my determination and my will to make it through. I hope that will stick with her down the road whenever something gets tough, so she can say, ‘Mom did it. I can do it.’”
Having grown up in a small Texas town with a population of 1,200, Tolleson is enjoying all the Space Coast has to offer. “I do like being my own person and being in different places and seeing what else is out there. I just wanted to spread my wings and fly a little bit,” she said.
Mother of: Shannon Shaffer, 40; Rachel Real, 37; Jason Shaffer, 35; Haley Roeder, 35; Adam Shaffer, 33; Lindsey Deaton, 31
GrandMother of: 16 children
Married to: John Shaffer for 30 years
Resides in: Melbourne
Occupation: CEO, KLD Foundation
By the time KLD Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary this August, CEO Janet Shaffer hopes to have tripled its 100-seat capacity to serve even more at-risk children at its K-12 private school and outside-of-school programs. Raising her three children, her husband John’s three children, and three foster children — including former Major League baseball player, Kevin Deaton, with whom she created KLD — certainly paved the way for her current role, but her commitment to helping kids goes much further back.
At age 14, Shaffer was hospitalized for nearly a year. “A lot of the kids in that pediatric ward were alone and it just seemed like I became Mom. Every night I would read stories and sit with kids who were dying. They would literally cry for me down the hall and the nurses would come get me out of bed. I just always had that piece in me.”
Her capacity to love children has transferred to her work. “People ask me all the time, ‘How can you do that?’ I don’t know. God empowered that somewhere in me and it’s just easy. I love them all,” she explained. “There’s really no difference between the kids I gave birth to, the children who became mine through the Brady Bunch scenario or the children I help along the way. I feel like they’re all my kids.”