2017 Grand Marshal
Ofc. Kenneth Cheatham
A Grand Officer
By Lauren Holm - Comminity VP
This year’s Barberton Area Jaycees Cherry Blossom Parade Grand Marshal is someone who has spent his career making not only a positive impact on Barberton’s youth, but on the streets as well. “Ofc. Kenneth Cheatham was chosen by the Jaycees to be recognized because of his tireless dedication to the betterment of our community,” Cherry Blossom Festival Chairman, Don O’Brien, said of the decision.
According to Ofc. Cheatham, having the Jaycees extend this opportunity to him has been surreal. “I’ll give you one word – humbling,” he shared with me. “You know, I love what I do, I love helping people, and to be recognized for it is humbling. Who knew that an ol’ Barberton boy would grow up to be in the position that I’m in,” he said with a grin. “Hopefully other kids can see that I’m just like them. I grew up here, went to school here, and if they stay the course,
they can also achieve positive things.” In spite of his goal to be a positive force in the lives of those around him, being recognized for it often catches him off guard. “It really does surprise me when they tell me just how much I’ve taught them. I can’t say enough how humbling this all is.”
Given the unique opportunity he has working as Barberton City School’s Resource Officer, I wanted to know what he felt are the most important qualities to have when acting as a leader and role model. “One, you have to like kids,” he chuckled. “Two, you have to be honest with them, and caring and compassionate. And here’s the big part: you have to see them as if they are your own.” Ofc. Cheatham echoed that sentiment several times. “Knowing, again, that I get to help people, at the end of the day, is everything. Knowing that what you’re doing is helping someone to make positive choices, to help make others into productive members of society. It’s a great feeling.”
With 25 years of service to the community as a police officer behind him, Ofc. Cheatham is already looking into ways to continue his passion for helping others long after he leaves the force. “I’m at the point in my life now where I start to look back and look at how different our community is. I’ve noticed that its not the kids that have changed, the adults have,” he noted with a sigh. “When I grew up, there was always something for us kids to do. My generation has really dropped the ball. We have a duty to be influencing our young people. We complain all day that our kids are running wild, but then we don’t do anything to provide these kids with opportunities to do something positive.” He’s been dedicating his time to gather the resources to build the Hope Community Center, a recreation center that will service Barberton and the surrounding communities. “It’s going to be the people like us, those who love to help others, that are going to bring our community back.”
We invite everyone to please join us Saturday May 20th at 10 a.m., for the annual Barberton Area Jaycees Cherry Blossom Festival parade, where we will celebrate Ofc. Kenneth Cheatham when he leads the parade as our 60th Grand Marshal. For complete details on the parade route, please visit our Parade Page.