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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 11, 2003

Pearl City mom wins National Mother of the Year contest

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kela Park wasn't surprised to learn her mom was named National Mother of the Year in a contest held by American Mothers Inc., an interfaith organization based in New York.

National Mother of the Year Mervlyn Kitashima has seven children. From left are daughters Summer Bloomfield, Kela Park and Heidi Aceret. To the right of Mervlyn and her husband, Daniel, are sons Shon, Jarom, Kaui and Pili Kitashima. Mervlyn is a parenting coordinator for the Kamehameha Schools.

Kitashima family photo

Her mom, Mervlyn Kitashima, "raised seven of us at a time when she was still very young," Park said. "And we all, in our own ways, found a way to succeed in life."

That spirit of encouragement, combined with support and strong faith, helped the 48-year-old Pearl City mother and grandmother of five win the title in the nationwide competition among 40 candidates. She won a mother-and-child sculpture and diamond-studded pin last weekend during the American Mothers organization's 68th annual national convention in Washington, D.C.

"She's just very impressive," said Lianna McMillan, a Waipahu mother of 10 and the organization's Mother of the Year search chairwoman in Hawai'i. "She's a national and international speaker on families and the value of each child."

Kitashima grew up on Kaua'i in a poor family with seven children from two marriages, and battled problems with an alcoholic father and a multi-ethnic family before being multi-ethnic was in vogue.

All her life, she fought to turn the label "at risk" to "at promise."

The theme of her international lectures is that every child has promise.

"What my mom has taught me is that regardless of the obstacles the world places in front of us," said Park, 29, a mother of two, "you can succeed, and there are people to support you."

Kitashima, parenting coordinator for the Kamehameha Schools, is humble about her achievement.

She will spend today with her family going to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says being together will mean more than lei or diamond-studded jewelry.

"This is not an honor about getting," she said. "It's an honor that allows me to go out and do more."

Tanya Bricking writes about relationships for The Advertiser. Reach her at tbricking@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.