For the Love of Mom

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By Ben Carlson

Rita Keeling said she always told her children she loved them when tucking them into their beds each night.

That love was repaid in spades last week when her son, Adam, nominated her for America's Favorite Mom, a national Internet-based promotion that allows voters to choose the nation's top mom.

"I was shocked," Rita Keeling said Monday afternoon from her living room in Stringtown. "When I read what he wrote, I nearly cried."

Adam Keeling, 28, said he entered his mother in the contest while surfing the web to buy flowers for Mother's Day.

While online, he entered his mother in the contest, without her knowledge.

Adam Keeling, who grew up in Lawrenceburg but now lives and works in northern Kentucky, wrote an essay about his mother's struggles to raise a family following a divorce.

In it, he describes his mother as a hard-working, dedicated woman who has devoted her entire life to her family.

"I wish I could tell cheerful stories about a new, romantic dating life for my mom, or of her favorite relaxing exotic vacation spot. But the truth is my mom never experienced any of that while raising me and my siblings because her entire life was consumed with dedication of ensuring we had the best life possible," he wrote.

"It is her undying dedication, love and ability to step up to the challenges of successfully raising three kids as a single working mom that she deserves the recognition as America's best mom."

After submitted her name, he printed a copy of his essay and mailed it to his mother.

"He called and asked it I had check my mail," Rita Keeling said. "I did, and couldn't believe what he had done."

Her daughter, Kathy Gullett, said she can't believe her brother wrote such a touching tribute to their mother.

"He doesn't express his feelings too often," she said.

The contest, which offers a series of prizes leading up to a $25,000 grand prize in May, is based on the number of votes each entry receives.

As of Tuesday morning, Rita Keeling was 22nd nationally, but trailed the leader by about 2,000 votes.

Adam Keeling said his goal now is to get his mother among the contest's top 15 vote getters.

"This contest started in January, so I got in kind of late," he said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to let people know about this and get them to vote for my mother."

Along with a $25,000 grand prize, the contest offers a variety of cash and other prizes, including monthly $5,000 payouts through the end of April.

It also awards a year's worth of free flowers through Teleflora to one contestant each month, and a $100 cash prize each week.

Those in the top 15 will be semifinalists and compete for the overall crown.

Each semifinalist will appear on the "Today Show" during the five days leading up to Mother's Day on May 11.

Five finalists will then compete for the overall crown during a prime-time special on NBC, with the winner earning $25,000.

Rita Keeling, who works at YH America in Versailles, said she sure she could put the money to good use.

"I'd put it away," she said. "You never know when you're going to need to replace a roof or something like that."

How to vote

Voting will continue through Mother's Day at www.americasfavoritemom.com. People are allowed to vote each day, but must first register at the website.

"Registering is fast and free," said Adam Keeling. "It takes about five seconds and you can vote every day. I registered about a week ago and haven't received any junk e-mail after doing so."