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    USU Alumnus is parent to newly-announced 2023 Gerber Baby

    USU Alumnus is parent to newly-announced 2023 Gerber Baby

    Courtesy Photo | Madison "Maddie" Mendoza represents military children as this year's Gerber Baby....... read more read more



    Story by Sharon Holland 

    Uniformed Services University

    Nearly everyone in America has seen the smiling face of infant Ann Turner Cook on Gerber baby food jars. Cook was selected as the first “Gerber Baby” and has graced their products over the past 95 years. Since 2011, the company has held a contest to select its latest Gerber Baby and this year 10-month-old Madison “Maddie” Mendoza, the daughter of Uniformed Services University graduate Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jun Mendoza and his wife, Crystal, was selected for the honor.

    Jun Mendoza is a 2011 alumnus of USU’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, currently serves as the chief of Allergy and Immunology at the 10th Medical Group, U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and holds a faculty appointment in USU’s Department of Pediatrics. He said he and his wife were surprised and excited when they got the news of their daughter’s selection. Mendoza was at work when the virtual call came, and his wife was home with Maddie. The Gerber president and team, along with the Today Show representatives were on the other side of the screen.

    “We were overwhelmed with shock and joy to learn that Maddie was selected. We initially thought this Zoom call was another interview in the selection process, so we were very surprised when we were told that we won,” Mendoza says. “As a military family, we were very grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    After getting notified on a Friday, Mendoza said the next few days were pretty much a blur. They had to cancel their planned trip to San Diego to visit family, and Mendoza still had clinic on Monday. Immediately after clinic, Jun, Crystal and Maddie boarded a plane for New York.

    “We then had the interview with the Today Show on Wednesday morning. Afterwards, we had a few [virtual] interviews with People Magazine and local Colorado stations.”

    Maddie, who her parents describe as a ‘sweet baby with an adventurous spirit’ was a trooper throughout the trip. Mendoza says that Maddie handled all the media attention well; she loves to be around people. Her adventurous spirit extends to the outdoors and food, too.

    “She loves to feed giraffes at our local zoo, go stand-up paddle boarding at the lakes nearby, and also hikes in and around Colorado. She is also adventurous with eating as she has tried all kinds of food, including sea urchin,” Mendoza says.

    Maddie was selected for the honor from more than tens of thousands of nominations nationwide. As part of the award, Maddie will receive a new wardrobe, a year’s supply of the company’s products, and a $25,000 prize. She will also receive the title of “Chief Growing Officer” in addition to “Gerber Baby.”

    The Mendozas, who are both first-generation Americans, were particularly proud that a military child was chosen to be this year’s winner. Their fathers were both U.S. Navy veterans who immigrated from the Philippines. Mendoza says their family, including Maddie, will be attending this year’s 25th anniversary Military Child Education Coalition conference in Washington, DC, July 24-26, to help highlight military connected children.

    “As a military officer, this means a lot for my own child to be a representative. Military children go through a lot when their parents are deployed, or away a lot to serve our country, and I think it's important to highlight how strong, resilient, and special these children can be.”



    Date Taken: 07.25.2023
    Date Posted: 07.25.2023 08:51
    Story ID: 449924
    Location: BETHESDA, MD, US

    Web Views: 295
    Downloads: 0