ALLEGHENY FAMILY NETWORK BOARD MEMBER
NAMED PA MOTHER OF THE YEAR
Heather Starr Fiedler
recognized for balancing mothering and charitable efforts
PITTSBURGH, PA – Allegheny Family Network (AFN), a family-run organization supporting parents raising children with mental health concerns in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania, congratulates Board of Directors member Heather Starr Fiedler on being recognized as Pennsylvania’s 2021 Mother of the Year by AmericanMothers.org.
“We are thrilled to learn of Heather’s award and recognition of her loving mothering style, as well as her commitment to the community of mothers in the Pittsburgh region,” said Ruth Fox, CEO of AFN. “She serves our agency and families well, and we are excited that she was honored with this award.”
Mrs. Fiedler is the mother of two sons, Matthew and Ben, and balances work with charitable contributions that benefit mothers across the region. As a co-founder of the nonprofit organization Play It Forward Pittsburgh, they collect and distribute gently-used toys for thousands of children each year, including 2020 during the pandemic. As a young mother, she founded PittsburghMom.com, an informational website to provide resources and support to other moms.
Mrs. Fiedler has found ways to meet the “good times and bad” of mothering – one of the eligibility requirements for the award – with flexibility in her parenting style and a commitment to her family, with husband Mike.
“…We dealt with some mental health issues, anxiety and depression in one of my sons. That took some time to navigate and to learn about resources,” she said. As a board member of Allegheny Family Network, she says “it’s been a wonderful organization to support. Mental health is not talked about enough in our country, and support for caregivers is often lacking. It can be a really lonely and scary experience. It is my honor to help in some small way make that road an easier one to walk.”
Mrs. Fiedler is the chair of the department of community engagement, a professor of multimedia and director of Wood Street Communications at Point Park University. She oversees the campus food pantry and gardening club, as well.
Her lived experience as a parent of a child experiencing mental health or behavioral concerns, she recommends others “Lean on those around you. So many of us have kids facing mental health concerns and yet we don’t often talk about it. There are wonderful supports out there (like AFN) that people don’t even know about. And we aren’t the only ones trying to navigate the system. The more we can be open and honest and treat mental health the same way we treat physical health, the better it will be for both kids and parents.”
As a creator of networks for parents, Mrs. Fiedler also is an advocate of Family Peer Support, believing that the more support and information a parent has, the better they can meet the responsibilities that come with parenting. “We need to learn to give ourselves grace and not only show our ‘best self’ like we often do on social media. When we get real then we can be not only honest with ourselves and open to support, but also can show others that we’re all having many of the same experiences. I have relied countless times on other mothers’ wisdom and support and am so thankful for how they have helped me be a better parent to my boys,” she said.
Mrs. Fiedler will be recognized at a ceremony for the award in May in Washington, D.C.