“My goal for walking halfway across America in 2010 was to raise awareness for foster kids. Seven years later, that’s still my sole focus.” — Jimmy Wayne
Aug. 1, 2010, SEVEN years ago today, Jimmy Wayne finished his 1,700-mile Meet Me Halfway walk in Phoenix, AZ, on a broken right foot.
The North Carolina native took the first steps of that seven-month walk from the parking lot of Monroe Harding in Nashville on January 1, 2010, with the goal of raising awareness for at-risk foster children and homeless youth.
“I grew up in foster care and I know first hand how important it is that kids in the system have access to even minimum resources,” says Jimmy. “I was taken in by Bea and Russell Costner when I was 16 but so many kids out there don’t have access to the help and love that I did.”
“One of the most important things each state can do to help foster kids right now is to extend and implement foster care benefits to the age of 21. The facts point to why it’s so important,”
1 of 4 young men are incarcerated within the first two years after aging out at 18.
It costs a minimum of $30,000 per year to house an inmate.
The tuition for a two-year program at a community college is $3,000.
50 percent of the young women who age out of foster care at 18 become pregnant within the first year. (Source: National Federation of Families: www.ffcmh.org)
“By extending foster care to age 21, we give foster youth the opportunity to attend a community college and transition into adulthood, becoming productive citizens and saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” he says.
When Jimmy started his walk, he had celebrated six Top 20 singles, released his second full-length album, ‘Do You Believe Me Now’ (2008/Valory Music), and had just finished a tour with Brad Paisley (2009) that put him on stages that included Madison Square Garden.
“I’d just come home from the road. I remember it was December 3rd and I was standing at the thermostat stirring my coffee. I leaned over and nudged the thermostat a couple of degrees. When I heard the sound of the furnace kick on, an overwhelming feeling of guilt consumed me. It reminded me of a promise I’d made when I was 14 years old and in the group home: ‘when I make it, I’m not going to forget where I’ve come from.’ I made a promise that I’d come back and help my foster brothers and sisters, but I hadn’t done anything yet — at least not on a grand scale. So on January 1st, 2010 I started walking halfway across America.”
It took seven months to walk from Nashville to Phoenix, and over that time he honored every performance commitment his booking agency confirmed for him. He also met a few challenges along the way that included breaking his foot just days before he crossed the finish line and finding out, by email, that he’d been dropped from his record label.
None of that stopped him though because, as he says, “it was always about the kids.”
After the walk, he immediately started campaigning to get a bill passed that would extend foster care to age 21 in the state of Tennessee, just like he’d done in California during his walk.
Jimmy’s next step was authoring his inspiring memoir, Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way, with 17-time New York Times bestselling author, Ken Abraham. The book — Jimmy’s second — released in October of 2014 and was quickly followed by the passing of a bill in North Carolina to extend the age of foster care to 21.
“There’s still so much to do,” he says, as he continues to raise awareness for abused and neglected children through performing, writing and speaking. Jimmy recently completed his third book, Ruby The Foster Dog, which comes out November 1, 2017. Read more about it here: http://people.com/country/jimmy-wayne-childrens-book-foster-care-journey/ and pre-order your copies here: https://www.amazon.com/Ruby-Foster-Dog-Jimmy-Wayne/dp/142455408X
Jimmy continues to raise awareness for children in foster care — and for the more than 30,000 who age-out of the foster care system every year — through writing, performing and speaking. To find out more about Jimmy and his awareness campaign, Project Meet Me Halfway, please visit: