Celebrating The Women Of Ao: Meet The AO Moms

Pictured above: The AO Moms include, from left, Patti Nielsen, Mary Anne Wells, Babs Donahoo, Johnna Gandara and Merry Zoellner.

This March, we’re honoring the incredible women who keep AO running – in the stands, in our chapters, and behind the scenes.

Moms are just the absolute best, right? They almost always have our backs – even when we have seemingly strange ideas like “let’s start a U.S. soccer supporters’ group.”

Meet the AO Moms, the women who handle our warehouse operations. Two mornings a week, they can be found at AOHQ building and mailing member kits, folding and organizing our clothing and other merch – you name it, they handle it. You’ve probably met one or two of them at an AO tailgate in the past, or at the AO Rallies in Austin and Las Vegas.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way, as AO hasn’t always had a warehouse. In the early days of AO – and even through the 2014 World Cup – much of the work was handled out of co-founder Korey Donahoo’s basement, or in the sunroom of the home of his parents, Babs and Kevin. “I did nine orders the first day I helped, and I thought that was a lot,” Babs said. “Then, during that World Cup, ScreenInk (the screenprinter of AO member shirts) would just pile the boxes to my ceiling. We filled orders right out of the living room and took them right to the post office. We averaged about 1,500 a day during that cup.”

“The AO Moms are an incredible group of women who care about the organization and its members. They are the people behind the scenes (though they go to games sometimes too!) who manage our inventory, make sure memberships and merch go out, and just keep things running smoothly. I don’t think I’ve been there on a day when they weren’t doing all of this while chatting and laughing the whole time. They’ve innovated and streamlined since the beginning, and we are grateful to have them on our team.”

– Megan Brunken, AO treasurer + board member

Babs had help from others, including Mary Anne Wells, now AO Warehouse Operations Manager.

“I contacted Babs and asked if she needed help with World Cup prep,” Mary Anne said. “I said, ‘I’m retired, and I’m free tomorrow.’”

Since last March, the Moms have alternated shifts to adhere to social distancing measures – now that they’ve got it down to a science, though, warehouse operations continue to run smoothly.

So what are the best parts about being an AO Mom?

“It’s fun, and we’re all retired and about the same age – we’ve got plenty to talk about,” said Johnna Gandara.

“It’s the best job in the world to work for your kid,” Babs said. “And the soccer part is awesome, too.”

The AO Moms after a hard day's work in 2019. Seated from left are Jane Holt, Johnna Gandara, Patti Lintel and Ruth Grosscup; standing from left are Merry Zoellner, Pam Derry, Patti Nielsen and Babs Donahoo. Not pictured: Mary Anne Wells.

March 19, 2021