Be sure to look for Steven as the parade goes by

Be sure to look for Steven as the parade goes by

Steven Kanakry makes his way along the parade route at a past Arnold Mills Fourth of July Parade. This year, Karanky will make his 28th consecutive appearance in CumberlandÕs celebration.
This year marks his 28th consecutive appearance

CUMBERLAND - Joanne Kanakry says it was her idea, just an off-hand remark to son Steven after they watched the Arnold Mills Fourth of July Parade in 1984.

Maybe next year, he could be in the parade, she suggested.

Could he ever.

This July 4 at 11 a.m. on Nate Whipple Highway will find Steven, now 46, making his 28th consecutive appearance in Cumberland's annual salute to the nation's founding.

Steve makes the effort every year despite the progressive muscular dystrophy that over the years has limited his movement and the autism that makes communicating difficult for him.

Look for him, as always, atop his canopied scooter, sure to be decorated in the flags and other red, white and blue streamers that he loves.

Also decorated by dad Michael under Steve's supervision, is the trailer he'll pull behind him.

He won't be waving to the crowds, but he will be tooting a horn all the way down the street.

By the time he meets up with his parents on the corner of Quaker Lane next Thursday he'll be exhausted, they say, but have more than likely added yet another "walking" division plaque to a collection that fills one corner in the Kanakry home and spills into a cardboard box.

Talking with The Breeze, the couple said their son's annual appearances are a must-show to their son, his own unique accomplishment.

Suggests Joanne, "People recognize him for it. It's kind of his identity. It's what he's famous for."

Says his dad, "It's something he takes pride in."

Michael and Joanne Kanakry raised Steve and his two older siblings after moving from Pawtucket to Cumberland in 1968.

She's a retired Pawtucket School Department social worker and he owned the former Sam's Market on the corner of Weeden Street and Lonsdale Avenue.

Michael says the family appreciates the work by the parade volunteers and the town's contribution, from hanging the banner to putting out the trash barrels.

"It's so nice to have it a community affair," he said. "People feel so good about it."

Parade Chairwoman Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane says she loves Steve's "sheer joy" at participating.

Steve lives at home where he easily maneuvers around the house in a motorized wheelchair, and attends the Resource of Human Development in Pawtucket three days a week.

The focus there is on artistic pursuits and one favorite topic for Steve is sculptural trucks that he depicts with pieces of wire glued to a wooden base.

This year's scooter decorations were still in the early stages this week but likely to include Steve's preferred flag motif.

And no matter the weather, downpours or blazing sun, Steve has proven through the years that he's a stalwart participant.

"He's determined to finish the parade no matter what," says his mom.

Joanne Kanakry and her husband, Michael Kanakry, right, pose for a photo with their son, Steven in their Cumberland home. Because he has progressive muscular dystrophy, Steven uses a motorized wheelchair to move around his home and has also used it to ride in the Arnold Mills Fourth of July parade since he was a teenager. (Valley Breeze photo by Elise Manahan)