April 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm , by Ron Kelly
Riding high on the success of his first number-one song, 2008’s “Do You Believe Me Now?”, Jimmy Wayne was having a great 2009. He had a new CD, Sara Smile, about to drop in November, and he was touring as the opening act on the Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley tour. He even got to play Madison Square Garden the week of his birthday. I had the good fortune of being there when he was surprised backstage with a birthday cake commissioned by some top-tier fans and baked by TLC’s the Cake Boss. (Yes, I had a slice. It was an offer—and a cake—I couldn’t refuse.)
Come Christmastime, though, the singer was feeling the weight of his good fortune. “I started to think about where I’d come from, remembering all the times I’d lived outside in the cold and slept on the ground,” says Wayne, who had an abusive childhood and spent years as a homeless teen, shuffling in and out of foster homes. “I had a little bit of guilt. When you come from that background, you never want to walk away from it. You always want to do as much as possible to give back. And I started thinking that I really hadn’t done anything significant in 2009 that really helped to give back.”
Cut to January 1, 2010. Wayne laced up and launched his Project Meet Me Halfway walk, an effort to call attention to the plight of kids in the foster care system—especially those who “age out,” meaning they’re cut off from foster care funding and health insurance. In some states, that’s at the age of 18 and, all too often, these kids end up homeless. Choosing two foster care organizations he’s done a lot of work with through the years as starting and end points, Wayne departed from the parking lot of Nashville’s Monroe Harding on his way to Phoenix’s HomeBase Youth Services, and is still en route. Yes, that’s a planned 1,700-mile walk, started in the dead of winter. Yes, he knows it’s kinda crazy and, yes, he’s had doubts along the way. But, at posting time, he’s logged more than 1,000 miles and even survived his first rattlesnake encounter near the Texas-New Mexico border (pictured).
You can keep track on exactly where Wayne is on his Meet Me Halfway website (in case you want to head out to meet him and offer some support), as well as find links to donate to both Monroe Harding and HomeBase Youth Services. You can even check out some live webcasts that Jimmy does from the road on the site too.
I chatted with Wayne right around his arrival in Amarillo, Texas—roughly the midpoint of his journey. He brought me up to speed on the inspiration for the walk, his personal history with foster care, and how you can help spread the word and help the cause. All that, after the jump.
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Home, Ladies' Lounge, Relationships | Tags: country music, Do Good, foster care, HomeBase Youth Services, Jimmy Wayne, Meet Me Halfway, Monroe Harding | 141 Comments