Fathers’ impact honored at walk and fun day
Fun Day celebrates strong men as behavioral models
YOUNGSTOWN — Ask Kaimen Campbell why he’s wanted to be a police officer for as long as he can recall and you will likely get a straightforward, no-holds barred reply.
“I want to help the city because people get killed over nothing — nothing,” Kaimen, 11, of Youngstown, said.
Kaimen hopes one day to do his part to curb crime, but on Saturday, he and his parents attended an event organizers said can help put a major dent in the problem.
The family was among those who took part in a Fatherhood Walk & Fun Day gathering in Wick Park, a main thrust of which was to celebrate committed fathers and the vital role they play in greater family cohesion — which can be a factor in reducing crime and violence.
“Today, we honor and celebrate our fathers. A lot of the problems in this community are from not having strong fathers,” said Joe McGeorge, executive director of Warriors Inc., which hosted the four-hour family event.
Fathers and their children of all ages took part in the festivities, a primary goal of which was to “make fatherhood cool,” McGeorge added.
For their part, Kaimen and his father, Henry Wylie, a 37-year electrician, enjoy fishing together. Henry also isn’t shy about teaching his son key elements of electronics and sharing his profession, he said, adding that Kaimen also is adept at playing chess.
Also accompanying Kaimen was his mother, Stacie Gilmore.
John Stanford of Canfield brought his daughter, Kyla, 4, to the walk, which is only one of many shared fun activities between father and daughter.
“It’s beautiful,” Stanford said about his relationship with Kyla. “We’re like best friends.”
The two enjoy a host of activities together that include watching the ducks and turtles in Mill Creek Park, having long conversations with each other while out to eat and watching “Bluey,” an Australian animated TV series that debuted in 2018 and follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic 6-year-old high-energy puppy.
“He’s awesome!” Kyla said excitedly when asked to describe her father.
Stanford added that the region has an abundance of absent fathers, and that more of them should step up to take care of their children.
For Eric Nerone, Saturday’s funfest was a welcome departure from the norm because he’s a single father who works long hours to support his son, Kadin, 2.
“He’s the greatest kid,” Eric said as his son took a turn on an inflatable slide. “He loves dinosaurs and Spider-Man.”
For this father-son duo, the simplest things seem to bring the greatest pleasure, such as merely saying and doing what he can to make Kadin, his only child, laugh. Also good for the same effect is joining the boy in his dinosaur games, Eric said, adding that his son also attends a nearby day care center.
Making remarks before the walk was the Rev. Gary Frost, pastor of Mercy Community Church in Youngstown.
Men who fully embrace their roles as good fathers are “an endangered species,” so it’s vital that more of them take on the responsibilities that come with fatherhood, he explained.
“We must stand strong as masculine men,” Frost said, referring to the importance of taking the lead in their children’s lives and making the necessary sacrifices for the sake of their families.
Dozens of fathers and their children walked around and through the spacious park as some chanted in unison, “Ain’t no ‘hood like fatherhood.”
Also at the Walk & Fun Day were resource tables with a variety of information and pamphlets on being better fathers.
Agencies and other entities represented at the gathering included Eagle’s Christian Preschool & Child Care, the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, the African American Male Wellness Agency, Broadway Recovery Services, the Pregnancy Help Center, the Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, the Steel Valley Baptist Association and the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission.