WHEN we launched our Mum of the Year 2021 competition, we had a feeling we were going to receive some extra-special nominations – and we weren’t wrong.

During the last year, with its lockdowns, homeschooling and unprecedented challenges, mums have stepped up to the plate, and then some.

We received a whopping 4,200 entries, which our panel of celeb judges – Giovanna Fletcher, Kate Garraway, Kate Ferdinand and Ranvir Singh – carefully considered.

“Judging this competition is always hard, but this year even more so,” says Giovanna.

“It has been such a tough year for parents and every one of the entries was an inspiration. I am in awe of all the amazing mums, and I am honoured to be a judge and read all their incredible stories.”

New mum – and this issue’s cover star – Kate Ferdinand admits she found judging an emotional experience.

“I cried reading their stories – just seeing how much people are going through with hardly any support was heartbreaking,” she says.

“It put everything into perspective, and it’s fantastic that we can recognise mums like this and give them a special treat from Fabulous.”

Judge Kate Garraway was even nominated, as she’s been raising her two children alone while husband Derek Draper continues to battle Covid in hospital.

Fellow GMB presenter and Strictly star Ranvir says: “I kept changing my mind, they were all special. But in the end, the kindness and selfless nature of the winner and runners-up leapt out.”

After much agonising, they chose our winner: Sherril Wright – a mum, foster carer, student and volunteer.

She’s won an overnight stay for two at Champneys with four spa treatments as part of the spa’s Gold Package.

Sherril, 41, lives in the Central Belt in Scotland with her husband Bryan, 42, and their daughter Anya, six.

She says: “My greatest wish is that my home is a place of joy and safety, not just for Anya but also for the foster kids who come to us, some for just days, others for months.

Anya and her twin brother Mason were born prematurely in September 2014 at 24 weeks. It was terrifying – they weighed barely over 1lb each.

Mason passed away aged two months. Losing him was devastating, but Anya was a fighter and after almost five months in hospital, in early 2015 we were able to bring her home.

Being born so early has left her with many health problems – she is visually impaired, has a feeding tube and has been in and out of hospital all her life with lung problems. Last February, she was hospitalised with pneumonia and I was terrified she wasn’t going to make it.

When Anya was a year old, Bryan and I applied to be foster carers. Family and friends thought I was crazy. We were still grieving for Mason, as well as raising a child with disabilities. But we had a good home and plenty of love to give.

We were approved in June 2018 and in September that year we welcomed two siblings into our home. Since then, we’ve fostered five children, aged up to 11.

When they’re here, I treat them and Anya just the same and I love that she has other children to play with.

I’m just one of millions of mums who’ve done their best this year.

Since the pandemic began, although I’ve never let Anya see my worry, I’ve been terrified that we could lose her to Covid – she’s very vulnerable and had to shield for much of 2020.

Over the last year, I’ve been homeschooling her – though she has now returned to her mainstream school – as well as my foster children. It’s been hard, but we did our best.

On top of all that, I’m currently studying child psychology and childhood studies through the Open University.

I study at night or in the early morning when the kids are asleep and I hope it will help me better support the children who come into my care.

Since Anya was a baby, I’ve also volunteered with the charity Bliss, supporting the families of premature and sick babies.

I know how valuable solidarity from parents with the same lived experiences is. Over the last 12 months it’s been on Zoom, but I never miss a session.

I’m lucky to live in a tight-knit community and am a natural organiser! During the first lockdown, I held community Zoom quizzes, delivered food parcels, and dropped off gifts to cheer people up.

When Bryan told me he’d nominated me for Fabulous’ Mum of the Year award I was mortified – I don’t think I’m anyone special – but now I feel honoured and can’t wait to be pampered.

But I’m just one of millions of mums who’ve done their best this past year. We’ve all had to put our big girl pants on.”

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