Parents of the Year 2000
John and Cheryl Carnwath
- Arnold Maryland
with Congressman Elijah Cummings (in center) (D-MD)
John and Cheryl Carnwath exhibit the enthusiastic commitment, experience, and example that have supported and inspired hundreds of families throughout nearly twenty years of active community service. As parents of four children aged 19, 17, 15, and 12, the Carnwath's are well aware that it takes full-time, consistent, and vigilant involvement to guide young people to make the right and responsible life choices that will lead them to productive and fulfilling futures. Once, in response to a high school principal who commented that they were "lucky" to have a son who was both serving and successful, Cheryl replied that helping a child navigate life’s challenges was much more a matter of labor than luck.
John and Cheryl have held positions in the corporate and medical arenas respectively, and they are aware of the challenges and pressures parents face as they attempt to balance career demands with their responsibilities to their families. A highly successful management and sales professional, John was always very clear about his priorities. When asked what he did for a living, he would reply, "I raise four children – and to support that career, I work for this corporation."
The Carnwaths ultimately decided to devote themselves full-time to the tasks of parenting and supporting other parents in their efforts to build strong, resilient families. They viewed leaving their careers not as a sacrifice but as an investment in the lives of their children and the families of their community.
To address parents’ questions and concerns ranging from health issues to child rearing, John and Cheryl organized a Children’s Fair. Since its inception in 1988, the fair has become an annual event that brings together businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local government agencies, providing a wealth of practical resources for parents and attracting as many as 6,000 participants. The Children’s Fair then evolved into a full-fledged family camp, Camp Blaze, which was established in 1992 with a mission to define, develop, and implement programs to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s families. Cheryl explains the key to the camp’s successful outreach: "When a message is presented to an entire family, it is much more effective and will be reinforced more successfully at home.
Among the bevy of activities at Camp Blaze are The Amazing Family Weekend, a get-away which combines family fun activities with educational sessions; forums for parents such as Survival Skills for Parents and Teenagers, and Survival Skills for Parents in the Workplace; an annual Day on the Bay cruise – a special date for parents; and a formal banquet titled "A Night to Remember". This special event celebrates the beauty and purpose of marriage and opens an opportunity for its young participants to declare that they will be sexually pure "from this day forward," until they make their own marital bonds.
Following in their parents’ footsteps, the Carnwath’s children – Brant, Paige, Scott, and Leigh – eagerly engage in public service. The example of the Carnwath family and their tireless investment in their community have brought inspiration and new vision to hundreds of parents within their city and throughout the nation.