Alleah Salone (left), with her mother, Carrie, and sister, Ayana, a student at Texas A&M University. The siblings founded the Mother’s Legacy Foundation in honor of their grandmother and Carrie Salone’s mother, Leila Johnson. CONTRIBUTED BY CENTERCUTT PHOTOGRAPHY / ATLANTA
Photo: Contributed by Courtesy CenterCu
Photo: Contributed by Courtesy CenterCu

This Life with Gracie: How these siblings are honoring moms everywhere

She had hopes of surprising her mom, but knowing Carrie Salone isn’t likely to sit still long, Alleah Salone let her mom in on her secret.

To celebrate her love for Carrie, she’d be arriving home from Boston sometime Saturday in time to attend church with her, enjoy pampering at a local spa and then a late dinner.

“If I hadn’t told her, she would’ve planned a day full of events,” Alleah laughed.

Not this Mother’s Day. Like all those before, this one will be spent together, albeit without Alleah’s sister and Carrie’s second born, 20-year-old Ayana, who is finishing up exams at Texas A&M University.

Anna Jarvis envisioned Mother's Day to be about children honoring the sacrifices their mothers made.

Although their mom remains understandably at the center of the annual celebration, the Salone sisters can’t forget the many mothers who like Carrie live daily to leave a lasting legacy for their children and should be remembered, too.

And so in keeping with the mission of the Mother’s Legacy Foundation, the nonprofit the siblings founded while still in middle school, those mothers, close to 100, will once again receive or have already received a small token of their appreciation, a handmade greeting card wishing them, yes, Happy Mother’s Day.

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You see in the Salone sisters’ world, moms and motherhood should be celebrated every day. That isn’t to say they don’t appreciate the role fathers play in their children’s lives. They do.

But for them, mothers are what make the world go round.

It might not be surprising then to know that it was Carrie’s mother, Leila Johnson, who was the inspiration behind Mother’s Legacy.

Carrie Salone of Atlanta readies greeting cards to send to moms here and across the country for Mother’s Day. Salone’s daughters Alleah and Ayana started the practice to honor her mother and their grandmother, Leila Johnson, after her death. CONTRIBUTED BY CENTERCUTT PHOTOGRAPHY / ATLANTA
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Years before conceiving the idea and applying for nonprofit status, the siblings were volunteers with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides housing and other resources to families of sick children. Alleah, just 13 at the time, served on the organization’s youth advisory board.

One evening in 2009, she was serving dinner to families there, when she overheard a kid request a bowl of cereal.

“It got me thinking,” she said.

Alleah reached out to a local grocery chain and convinced the owners to donate cereal to the Ronald McDonald House.

“That sparked another idea,” she said.

What if she could expand her outreach beyond cereal and the Ronald McDonald House?

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With support from their mother, Alleah and her sister began collecting bicycles for the neighborhood Christmas drive, too. Soon they were hosting a biannual “Hometown Country Cookout,” where they honor mothers who’ve contributed to the well-being of the community, introduce young entrepreneurs, and distribute backpacks and other supplies to school-aged children.

When their grandmother passed in 2001, establishing a nonprofit seemed the perfect way to both honor her legacy and officially support the Kirkwood community that had helped mold them into the young women they were becoming.

Leila Johnson would never hesitate to help others. As a missionary, she fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited the sick.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Wherever life took her, she always carried this calming presence,” Alleah remembered. “Whenever I was with her, that’s how I’d feel, too, and I could talk to her about anything. Nothing was too trivial.

“As I look back, the lessons I learned in my conversations with my nana — “don’t be afraid to try new things,” “don’t give up just because a task is difficult” — helped mold my sister and I into the women we are today.

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“She was such a strong role model in our family both for my mom and me and my sister. When we’d talk about her, it was all about the things she did as a missionary with her church, her influence on my mother, and wanting to leave a legacy of helping and uplifting others.”

Initially, the decision to send cards to area moms was simply to pay homage to their grandmother, but after just two years, they expanded the idea to include mothers from every walk of life and from every corner of the globe, including first lady Michelle Obama.

“Mother’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the sacrifices our mothers make for us and to celebrate their legacy of love and kindness,” Alleah said.

But the holiday was never intended to be just about honoring a woman’s devotion to her own family. The goal was to honor women who have acted not only on behalf of their own children but also on behalf of future generations.

Leila Johnson’s love and care spread far beyond the Johnson clan, a habit she passed on to her daughter, Carrie Salone.

And now, in honor of both of them, the Salone siblings are modeling that same love for future generations.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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