YOUNGSTOWN – Ask Kaimen Campbell why he’s wanted to be a police officer for as long as he can remember and you’ll likely get a straightforward, unrestricted answer.
“I want to help the town because people are getting killed for nothing – nothing,” said 11-year-old Kaimen from Youngstown.
Kaimen hopes to one day do his part to fight crime, but on Saturday he and his parents attended an event that organizers say may be contributing to the problem.
The family were among those who took part in a Fatherhood Walk & Fun Day gathering in Wick Park, the main purpose of which was to celebrate engaged fathers and the vital role they play in bringing families together – 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 come from not having strong fathers,” said Joe McGeorge, executive director of Warriors Inc., which organized the four-hour family event.
Fathers and their children of all ages took part in the festivities, one of the main aims of which was to “make fatherhood cool”, McGeorge added.
For their part, Kaimen and his father, Henry Wylie, a 37-year-old electrician, enjoy fishing together. Henry is also not shy about teaching his son the key elements of electronics and sharing his craft, he said, adding that Kaimen is also adept at playing chess.
Kaimen also accompanied his mother, Stacie Gilmore.
John Stanford from Canfield took his daughter, Kyla, 4, on the walk, which is just one of many fun activities shared between father and daughter.
“It’s beautiful,” Stanford said of his relationship with Kyla. “We’re like best friends.”
The two enjoy a host of activities together, including watching ducks and turtles at Mill Creek Park, having long conversations with each other while eating, and watching “Bluey,” an Australian animated television series that made debuted in 2018 and follows the adventures of a high-energy 6-year-old anthropomorphic pup.
“It is awesome!” Kyla said excitedly when asked to describe her father.
Stanford added that the area is full of absentee fathers and 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 as he is a single dad who works long hours to support his son, Kadin, 2.
“He’s the biggest kid,” Eric said as his son took a ride on an inflatable slide. “He loves dinosaurs and Spider-Man.”
For this father-son duo, the simplest things seem to bring the greatest pleasure, like simply saying and doing what he can to make Kadin, his only child, laugh. Joining the boy in his dinosaur games is also good for the same effect, Eric said, adding that his son also attends a nearby daycare center.
Reverend Gary Frost, pastor of Mercy Community Church in Youngstown, made remarks ahead of the march.
Men who fully assume their role as good fathers are “an endangered species”, so it is vital that more of them take on the responsibilities that come with fatherhood, he explained.
“We need to stay 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 strolled through the spacious park as some chanted in unison, “Ain’t no ‘hood like fatherhood.”
Also at the Walk & Fun day there were resource tables with a variety of information and brochures on how to be better fathers.
Agencies and other entities represented at the rally included Eagle’s Christian Preschool & Child Care, Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, African American Male Wellness Agency, Broadway Recovery Services, Pregnancy Help Center, Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, the Steel Valley Baptist Association and the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission.