- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

Ask John Carnwath of Arnold, Md., what he does, and he replies: "I'm the father of four."

His wife, Cheryl, with no equivocation, says that being the mother of four is her "proudest achievement."

Yesterday, the Carnwaths and another couple, the Revs. Don and Ann Coleman of Lincoln, Neb. who have five grown children and 17 grandchildren were honored as the National Parents of the Year 2000 at a luncheon on Capitol Hill.

Parents' Day was established by Congress and President Clinton in 1994 to focus attention on the importance of parents to society. The event is held on the fourth Sunday of July and so was officially celebrated this past weekend.

For the first time, two couples were selected as the nation's top parents by a coalition of religious, civic and business leaders and elected officials.

"Do not consider this a co-award," Gary Jarmin, project coordinator for the Parents' Day Council, said at the luncheon. He stressed that both the Carnwaths and the Colemans are National Parents of the Year.

"These are real icons, role models of society, people you can really put on a pedestal," Mr. Jarmin said.

The Carnwaths are the founders of an annual event in Anne Arundel County known as the Children's Fair, which is designed to put parents in contact with businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations whose services they may need.

The event was started in 1988, when "my wife taught Lamaze classes" and was being besieged with questions from prospective mothers who needed practical information, Mr. Carnwath said yesterday.

"The fair now attracts as many as 6,000 participants. It really should be renamed the Family Fair, but everyone knows it as the Children's Fair," he said.

The fair has also evolved into a camp for the entire family, known as Camp Blaze. "When a message is presented to an entire family, it is much more effective and will be reinforced more successfully at home," says Mrs. Carnwath. One message promoted at Camp Blaze is sexual abstinence until marriage.

Asked for tips in rearing children, she said in an interview, "I raise them by the standards the Bible gives, rather than those confusing and conflicting messages they get in the culture."

In 1993, the Colemans, co-pastors of the Lincoln City Church, a nondenominational congregation in Lincoln, founded that city's chapter of MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder).

Also that year, Mrs. Coleman took a leadership role in a companion organization known as MOMS (Mothers Offering Moral Support), which offers encouragement and practical advice to mothers of teen-agers. The two groups started with the support of 25 members. Today, that figure is 1,500.

What's more, Mr. Coleman established a facility he calls the Learning Center in a former bike shop that had been donated for use as a youth center. Volunteers renovated the building, which today provides a full range of educational, guidance and recreational activity and training in everything from basic computer skills to small-engine repair for hundreds of young people weekly.

"All my sons said, 'When I grow up, I want to be just like Daddy and take care of my children,' " Mrs. Coleman said yesterday.

Mr. Carnwath gave up a successful management and sales career with Johnson & Johnson to devote all his time to helping youths and other parents. He says he is a children's and youth director for a church in his area and is training to become a pastor.

Yesterday, two of the Carnwaths' four children were on hand as they received their award. Two other children are in Mexico building a home for a family in need, their father said.

Likewise, Mrs. Carnwath gave up a career in medicine to make parenting and supporting other parents her full-time job.

The Carnwaths and Colemans were selected from a field of Parents of the Year award recipients from each state and the District of Columbia. Ten couples were chosen as finalists, and from that group the Parents' Day Council's National Selection Committee picked the two winning couples.

Byron and Ingra Lewis were honored as Parents of the Year in the District. Mr. Lewis, an ordained minister, and his wife, a registered nurse, have been involved in community outreach, including counseling and job training for young people and for married couples.

The Parents' Day Council said the Lewises, who have two children, are a "model of Christian forgiveness." They have forgiven a hit-and-run driver who last year struck their 5-year-old son, Byron Jr., and dragged him for half a mile. The child was seriously injured.

Stanley and Phyllis Rosenbluth, who have been married 49 years, were chosen as Virginia Parents of the Year. The couple lost their son Richard, when he and his wife, Becky, were slain in their Richmond home. The Rosenbluths have worked as advocates for those who have had similar tragedies.

The Parents' Day Council, a project of The Washington Times Foundation, is a coalition of religious, civic and business leaders and elected officials who believe America's moral and spiritual health can be restored through a "value-based revival that emphasizes and celebrates the God-centered family idea," Mr. Jarmin and Dong Moon Joo, president of The Washington Times Foundation, said in a brochure highlighting this year's honorees.

"We are proud to join together to honor outstanding parents, who through their example of unconditional love, commitment and service not only to their own children but also to the children of their communities, the nation and the world inspire new hope and vision for the future," the two wrote in their welcoming remarks.

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