- Jimmy Wayne is a former foster kid who seeks to raise awareness of the problem facing youth in foster care who “age out” of the system, like he did.
- He is a country singer whose song, “Paper Angels,” is about the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, in which he a recipient as a child.
- His story is being featured on CBS’s “12th Annual A Home for the Holidays,” Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 8pm ET.
“My mission is to rescue these kids,” said Jimmy Wayne. He speaks with the same determination that led him to walk 1,700 miles from Nashville to Phoenix in 2010 – the last five miles of that on a broken foot. The country singer walked halfway across America because his goal is to raise awareness of the problem facing youth in foster care who “age out” of the system, often becoming homeless, at age 18. He was one of those kids. His cross-country walk, called Project Meet Me Halfway, was meant to simulate homelessness and took him from New Year’s Day until August 1 to complete. But being the change is nothing new for Wayne.
It began with his songs. “Paper Angels” is about the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Wayne was a recipient as a child. “I write my songs around the stories. Everything I think about I think, “Is this going to help the story? Is this going to help someone?’ It’s not about just standing up in a barroom playing or something. It’s a strategy. How can I use this to help give back?”
It’s not where you’ve been…
The singer’s home environment growing up was unstable and he bounced around foster homes until heading out on his own as a teen. He began “couch surfing,” or sleeping on any couch offered to him. Wayne once found an abandoned trailer to live in for two weeks. Things changed when he was taken in by an elderly couple, Bea and Russell Costner, at age 16. Wayne has always wanted to give back to others in the same way in which they gave to him.
What drives the singer to give back
“I think it’s selfish to want to get away from it and not give back,” he said. “If you’ve been given that experience, and you survived it, then think of the people who don’t survive that who you could possibly help. And to me, that’s just unfair if you hoard that experience and that gift and not give back.” Wayne’s journey led him to the Senate floor in Washington, D.C., as well as to Sacramento, Calif., where he shared his story with politicians. California passed AB-12, which is designed to extend benefits for foster children until they reach age 21 instead of age 18.
“I was a part of that,” he said. “They invited me to come and speak and I told them my story. The Congressman, Senators – they listened. [Governor] Arnold Schwarzenegger actually signed the bill so it does work…From a money standpoint, times are tough and people do not have the money to donate. But the awareness is free..You can spread the word and that alone has changed peoples’ lives.”
Project Meet Me Halfway continues to evolve…
Wayne teases that 2011 will be a chance for people to “get involved on the front end” of what he’s doing. The singer will see his 2010 closed with his story being featured on CBS’ “12th Annual A Home for the Holidays.” Wayne sees this as his chance to raise awareness to an audience of millions. He was deeply moved watching last year’s special featuring singer Michael Franti, who was adopted as a child. “I guarantee you that generated some awareness and got some kids adopted because you can’t be human and see that performance and go, ‘oh, no, it doesn’t move me,’” said Wayne.
But will the bachelor be adopting children of his own? “Yes, indeed! I would,” he said. “I would love to have a family of adopted kids. My main goal is to build a home that houses the youth who need our help.”
How to help:
- Wayne wants people to get involved with their local facility that houses or tries to help youth aging out of the system. Donate money or time to these places.
- For example, volunteer to give free haircuts if you are a hair stylist or hire kids who live at these places if you’re a business owner.
- At the very least, Wayne hopes people will talk about the issue with friends, family, their churches and businesses.
He’ll perform Wednesday, Dec. 22 on CBS’s “12th Annual A Home for the Holidays” at 8pm ET.
Check out his website, ProjectMMH.org, and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWayne.