A CARING 73-year-old Dublin mother who has fostered 140 children in need has been awarded Mum Of The Year 2010.
Selfless Rio Hogarty, from Clondalkin, has worked tirelessly to help vulnerable children in Ireland since 1963, and she now has a huge network of her fostered children all around the world.
The supermum told the Herald that her first foster child, who still keeps in touch with her today, was only three months when she took him into her home almost 40 years ago.
"His mother was a friend of mine and she wasn't able to look after him. That's how it started. He was three days old when I took him, and his mam was involved in most of his life. He was 25 when he got his degree in Trinity."
Rio is well known around her area for providing a warm and welcoming home to the children, but she says she had been trying to house vulnerable children even when she was a little girl herself.
"I used to bring home kids from school to my mam, and she'd say 'what are you bringing them here for', and I'd say 'they're in trouble'. If anyone was in trouble, I could never keep my nose out of their business and I'd have to try and help."
Rio and husband Hugh extended their house to provide more living space, and the most they had living under their roof at any one time was 15 children.
"Some didn't stay, and some would only stay for a year or nine months, and it was always great when they'd go back to their own families."
"Some of them, I might not see for four years and then they'll knock on the door with their own children. They might have a teenager and they'll say 'I'm out of my mind, she's driving me bonkers'. And we'd sit and talk about how to deal with it."
The caring mother, who has two children of her own, has been deeply humbled by the award. "It was nice to take the award for all foster parents. I don't look at it as anything specific to me," she said.
Rio is currently caring for a 21-year-old, two 19-year-olds, an 18-year-old and an 11-year-old, and she says she will continue to do a job that she loves for as long as she can.
"To me the years have slipped away. I can't believe I'm 73 years and still doing it. But I won't be stopping."
Remarkably, Rio has helped many of the children into third-level education, and she encouraged them to learn a trade if they were not academic.
"Education is very important. Every one of them -- even though we didn't always have success -- if they were academic they went to (third level), or if they weren't they got an apprenticeship."
Hugh and Rio celebrated 51 years of marriage last year, and many of their foster children joined them for the celebrations.