January 1, 2010. Do you remember where you were? Maybe making those infamous resolutions, cooking black eyed peas, or watching football with the family! Whatever you were doing that day, you most likely enjoyed the first day of the new year from a warm home somewhere across the country. Sadly, while most of us celebrated and looked ahead to all that the new year had to offer, thousands of homeless teens were just trying to figure out where they would sleep that night. Country Singer, Jimmy Wayne, knows both sides of the story.
Although he has enjoyed a successful music career including his first number one song “Do You Believe Me Now?”, Jimmy spent his early years as a homeless teen living on the streets of North Carolina. As he reflected on his troubled teen years, in late 2009 Jimmy was inspired to set out on a mission that would rise above all his musical accomplishments. With the goal to raise awareness of homeless children and teens, especially those who age out of the foster care system, Jimmy kicked off Project Meet Me Halfway on January 1, 2010. From the parking lot of Nashville-based Monroe Harding Children’s Home, Jimmy took his first step on his journey to walk halfway across America to spread the word of this mission that he knows all too well.
With every step, Jimmy couldn’t help but think about what his life would be like now if he had “aged out” of foster care back in 1990. "Aging out" refers to what happens when youth reach a certain age (age 18 in most states) and are no longer eligible for support from the foster care system. Without foster care funding, many youth lose their place to live, health care coverage, connections to supportive adults, and are ill-prepared to support themselves in the adult world. Many youth end up like Jimmy — homeless on the streets. Fortunately for Jimmy, after being shuttled to a series of foster homes, he met Russell and Beatrice Carter. It was then, at age 16, that Jimmy’s life began to change. He finally had what every child deserves, a family. It was that connection to family and stability that changed Jimmy’s life.
On August 1, 2010, exactly seven months and 1700 miles later, Jimmy took his final step when he arrived at Phoenix-based HomeBase Youth Services, another organization that serves the needs of foster children who have aged out of the foster care system and find themselves homeless. Along his journey, Jimmy inspired countless people who learned of his mission. From people who have earned certification to be foster parents, to families who now serve dinners at their local shelter, to new supporters who donated money along the way: they are all making a difference in the lives of homeless teens.
Jimmy, you are an amazing person! What a wonderful gift you have given by raising awareness of this serious issue that is so close to your heart. Southwest Airlines was proud to be able to support Project Meet Me Half Way by flying you (and your new dog, Ruby) halfway back across America to your home in Nashville. Thank you deeply for everything you are doing to improve the lives of homeless teens across this country.
Of Southwest's help, Jimmy writes: Thank you for the support. The free ticket was certainly a surprise. The walk from Nashville to Phoenix was a once in a lifetime experience but a memory that will last forever. I'm thankful you and Southwest airlines is a part of that amazing journey. I've been a loyal fan of Southwest airlines but now I'm an advocate.
We are your fans, Jimmy! To learn more about Project Meet Me Halfway, visit www.projectmmh.org.