One person took this expression to a whole new level. August 1, 2010 marked the completion of a major undertaking by country music star, Jimmy Wayne. His journey started in his home city of Nashville, Tennessee on January 1, 2010. At 8:30 AM, he crossed the finish line of his 1700 mile, seven month trek across the U.S., ending in Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly before reaching Phoenix, he suffered a broken heel, finishing with a slight limp and sporting a cast.
The project, called Meet Me Halfway, was undertaken to draw attention to the needs of vulnerable children. According to Jimmy, “Always, the central focus was the youth in foster care who were at risk of aging out without resources, who were in danger of ending up on the streets.”
Jimmy Wayne knows all too well the challenges faced by youth ‘in the system’. He has truly ‘been there, done that’. As a homeless teen, he was adopted by a North Carolina couple named Russell and Beatrice Costner. This came after years of being shuffled from foster home to foster home.
Anyone who has heard Jimmy Wayne sing knows that he continues to take the cause to heart; often incorporating his early experiences into his music. For Jimmy Wayne, it was not enough to write and sing songs about his experiences. He took it a step further, literally a few million steps further (an estimate….I looked it up!), spending several months enduring all kinds of weather and other challenges, to raise awareness of foster care and youth aging out of care.
Of course, Jimmy Wayne could have written out a check to an organization serving foster youth. (HomeBase Youth Services in Phoenix was the recipient of donations to the cause made along the way.) Or he could have continued to write and sing about foster care. But he did what most of us don’t….truly give his ‘all’ to this cause.
Many people were on hand to join in the celebration when Jimmy crossed the finish line. Some traveled great distances themselves to take part in the event.
And what of the officials charged with ensuring children and youth in foster care receive the care they need and deserve? How many came out to join the cause of raising awareness of foster youth? I scoped out a few news reports and was unable to find any mention of elected officials or public child welfare administrators that were in attendance for the conclusion of the 1700 mile walk. If they were there, they certainly stayed under the radar. Contrast this to the media attention sought out when elected officials take a stand on something like the auto industry bail-out, or health care reform. Sadly, there will be no bail-out for youth aging out of care or financially strapped public and private child welfare agencies. They rely on people like Jimmy Wayne to stand up and speak out about the challenges of youth exiting care to adulthood.
If Jimmy Wayne could give up 7 months of his life, not to mention the comforts of home foregone in the process, would it be too much to expect a state legislator or Congressperson to show up for the event….just to give a nod and say yes, this is important to me too? Or, if they were busy voting on some critical bill, could they have sent an assistant, colleague, spouse, anyone on their behalf? A few hours at most is all it would take to stand at the finish line and say thanks to Jimmy Wayne for bringing attention to the thousands of youth who transition to adulthood with no family standing behind them.
I hope I missed something and that there was indeed, a presence by at least one elected official, or child welfare administrator. I’m guessing there were probably a few social workers on hand.
If I’m incorrect, please do let me know. I will issue my heartfelt apology and cut a big slice of humble pie.
(Thanks to a family member, probably a grandmother, I can’t forget that expression, and it somehow seems appropriate when writing about a country music star!)