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2011 Best Mom on Wheels Winner Dianne Howard

Backrow: Travis, Brian (husband), Kevin, Frontrow: Danielle, Dianne, Dominique

Back row:
Travis, Brian (husband), Kevin
Front row: Danielle, Dianne, Dominique.

By: Janelle LoBello

Dianne Howard, 55, always said she wanted four kids. But after her first one, Dianne and her husband, Brian, whom she married at 27, said, "Okay maybe two will be enough! But God had other plans." Just four years after the birth of her son, Kevin, now age 25, Dianne had triplets!

Kevin, and the triplets, Travis, Danielle, and Dominique, age 21, don't have to call Dianne just "mom" anymore, because she is the 2011 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Best Mom on Wheels!

This is the first year the Reeve Foundation has held the Best Mom on Wheels Contest. Community members nominated their best mom with Reeve Foundation staff choosing the top 10 to be voted on by the online community in which over 2,000 votes were cast.

Living with paralysis from a diving accident in a physical education class at fourteen-years-old, Dianne says that the hardest time was tending the triplets all at once.

Learn a little, learn a lot
"It was hard to control them," says Dianne who resides in South Florida. "We managed. With the first one, I wasn't sure how I was going to do everything, but a girlfriend said to use a computer desk as the changing table. It was right at my level. When the triplets were born, we had that and a regular standing table so he [Brian, her husband] had to do as much of the work as I did!"

Dianne's wheels didn't stop her from continuing to live her life. "That's how I learned to do things," says Dianne, now Director of Risk Management and Benefits for Palm Beach County Schools. "I can always do things. I can always make something happen. Maybe just less traditionally."

Dianne says the experience of being nominated has been "heartening" seeing all the people who have supported her. "Through Facebook, forwarding emails, hearing from people I hadn’t heard from in a long time, it's been a great experience," says Dianne who admitted to having a crush on Christopher Reeve in college! "I saw people on Facebook saying, 'Vote for my friend.' I wish everyone could go through stuff like this and be nominated. It's so cool!"

Dianne, Dominique, and Brian (husband) in Florence

Dianne, Dominique, and Brian in Florence, Italy.

Why worry?
Having all this support comes from Dianne's belief that worrying doesn't help. "Analyze the problem, find a solution, deal with it, and move on," advocates Dianne. "I always tell kids, 'You have problems, I understand, but figure it out and deal with it. Nobody likes a whiner.'" And so Dianne's kids don’t worry about their mom on wheels but honor her. "The kids were so excited to call me," explains Dianne. "One of my daughters [Dominique] is in Europe studying so they got on a conference call to tell me they nominated me.”

Through all her humbleness, Dianne simply says, "Really, my life is blessed."

Read the entry from her daughter
She's been through more than, dare I say it, a Typical mom with paralysis. My mother is one of ten, became paralyzed at 14, lost her Dad shortly afterwards, and now is the mother to four. My parents wanted two children. They successfully had one and then ended up with four.

If that math doesn't seem right, it's because her second child was actually three. She had triplets! Not only did she have triplets - her husband and one of her daughters has cerebral palsy and bilateral nerve palsy, respectively.

For a family of six, three were considered disabled all the while both parents were working full time to make a living for their children. My mom was hard on us; we probably had to do a lot more chores in our childhood and barely received an allowance because my mom always made every penny count.

We may have complained then, but with the oldest son an officer in the U.S. Navy, one triplet son on his way to becoming a doctor, one daughter in training to become a pilot, and the other daughter working towards her MBA, I think we all turned out great thanks to our Mom!

Meet the other finalists.
Jill Caruso
View entry.

Susan Dorman
View entry.

Melissa Eilders-Christofferson
View entry.

Erin Gildner
View entry.

Jennifer Kreutzer
View entry.

Allison Lester
View entry.

Charlena O'Malley
View entry.

Nilgun Tanacan
View entry.

Tammy Voynik
View entry.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders