Cuyahoga Falls -- It's good to be king, especially on your birthday.
The King of Cuyahoga Falls, Kenny King, known to many for his volunteer work and community involvement, is going to be honored on his 70th birthday by the city through local and online fundraising efforts.
Mayor Don Walters spearheaded an effort to recognize Kenny with a party on Oct. 21 from 5-8 p.m. in the Falls River Square pavilion. The party is being funded through donations.
"Please come celebrate a legend," states the description of the "Kenny King 70-year Birthday Bash" on www.youcaring.com. "The 'King' of Cuyahoga Falls, Kenny King, is hitting the 'big 70' this year on Oct. 21. Every dollar raised will be spent on this epic celebration."
Plans include food, cake, music and fireworks if enough money is raised. Everyone is invited and gifts are welcome but not required. The online fund has raised $1,285 as of Oct. 9. The goal is $5,000. Donations are also accepted at any First Merit Bank branch.
"Kenny is the most famous person in Cuyahoga Falls, by far," Walters said. The mayor said he had business cards printed for Kenny to hand out that indicate he is the city's deputy mayor. Kenny helps coach the football team, direct the band at basketball games and stop horseplay at Water Works Park. He volunteers for the police and fire departments and for many years led the city's Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades on his bike.
Seated in the mayor's office on Second Street, Kenny was at a loss for words but visibly excited about his upcoming party. His ever-present smile said it all.
Kenny, who was raised on the east side of the city, works at the Summit County Department of Developmental Disabilities and is an usher at St. Joseph Catholic Church, which he walks to from his apartment in the Sutliff complex. And he regularly attends City Council meetings.
Walters, 51, said he was in third grade when he first encountered Kenny King. Walters was in attendance at a benefit basketball game between the Cleveland Browns and the Falls High basketball team. In hand was a stuffed Snoopy toy that he brought to have the Browns players sign.
"I was all excited," Walters said. "There was a long line, and the line is moving up and all the Cleveland Browns are there. Then someone comes up out of the nowhere and grabs the Snoopy out of my hand and writes K-I-N-G on it. And I still have it."
Walters said he decided to organize a party for Kenny when Councilman Jeff Iula told him his birthday is Oct. 21. "Everyone knows and loves Kenny. When I heard his birthday was coming, I knew we had to have a party." Former mayor Don Robart will be at the party, he said, as will concert promoter Bob Earley.
The mayor said he planning some surprises for Kenny including the key to the city. There will be some bluegrass music, which Kenny likes.
Kenny's niece Marla Knapic of Uniontown said she thinks "it's great" that Walters is planning to throw her uncle a birthday party. "The family is excited. It's a very nice gesture of the mayor and the city. Kenny is a sweetheart." Marla's mother, Rae Knapic, is Kenny's older sister. "My job is to get Kenny to the party," Marla added.
"Kenny creates memories for us," said Council President Mary Ellen Pyke. "When you think of Kenny, you think of where you were when you saw Kenny. For me, when I think of Kenny, I think of my fondest memories at Water Works Park when I was younger with my brother and sister. And Kenny was always there. Always."
Kenny was at the football games that Pyke attended when she was in high school. When her children were in high school and went to the games, Kenny was there. "He directs music and does crowd control," she said. "Everybody knows Kenny."
"Kenny has been around since before I was an officer," said Police Chief Jack Davis. "He was even at football games with a AAA badge and a uniform shirt when I was in high school, doing his security duties kicking kids off the fence."
Davis said Kenny can be found at "about every city event going on and makes sure that every officer he meets knows him. He used to come into the station daily on his bicycle to get his shift assignment from the desk supervisor. Just a great guy to have around and a friend to all the police officers."