Jimmy Getting Ready to Walk

Jimmy Getting Ready to Walk
Jimmy Wayne on January 1, 2010 at Monroe Harding at the launch of MMH.

Jimmy Wayne Meet Me Halfway: a Journey to Raise Awareness

On January 1, 2010, Jimmy Wayne launched his Meet Me Halfway campaign when he began his solo walk halfway across America in Nashville, TN. He plans to walk to Phoenix, AZ. Jimmy’s intention is not only to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless, especially at risk children, teens and young adults, but also raise funds for organizations that benefit homeless youth.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creating Change: Creating a Family

When I began researching the issues behind Project Meet Me Halfway, I was struck by the story of Nicole, a young woman who had aged out of foster care. Her foster parents had asked her to leave once she turned 18. She wrote of needing a family and said that the need for family does not suddenly disappear at age 18. She wanted a father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding, a mother to be with her when she gave birth, a family to visit on the holidays. Reading Nicole's story, I realized that the need for family does not lessen as we get older. And, I realized that family should be forever.

Elaine Barnes Bateman and her husband are parents to twenty children. Elaine has agreed to share with us her experiences in providing family to older youth. Reading the following, I realized that Elaine is creating the forever family that Nicole, and so many youth in foster care, crave.

This past Sunday evening my husband and I decided to take our usual weekly date night. Most of the weeks we take our dates on Friday nights, but due to our adopted grandson Joshua turning 11 on Friday, we stayed home with our family of 15 and celebrated. You see we, my husband and I, have 8 kids (young adults, but they were kids at one time) and we "adopted" 12 young adults. Our family has minimized by a few recently!

When my husband and I got married in 1995, we immediately became a family of ten. Without any guidance we embarked on an amazing journey. As our kids were growing up we noticed that more kids kept coming and staying longer in our home. We experienced first hand the physical abuse of one of our first "adopted" sons. He was a beautiful 16 year old that had only known instability, no father, and an abusive mother. He fled to our home and lived with us for 6 months until he was offered a truck if he went back to the abuse. We were heartbroken but understood that he continually wanted the approval of his biological mother and was very afraid of her.

That experience led us to always keep our hearts and our home opened to those young adults that wanted and needed a mom and dad in their lives!

Referring back to our date night we encountered three young adults from various backgrounds; here in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where everything just seems so perfect. These three were employees at a fast food restaurant who immediately began talking to us. They did not have any idea that I was Mrs. Kentucky International and that my husband and I were parents to kids just like them. As we were talking and my husband told them who I was and about my platform they said, "Wow, we don't have a family either." I asked, "Are you serious?" They said yes. We smiled and we went to take our seat. As we were waiting for them to bring our food to us (frying it fresh), my husband and I said to one another how this situation is repeated over and over again. The young adults came to us and we just told them to pull up a chair. They were amazed that we would take time to talk to them. One of them shared how he had been in and out of three foster homes. This young man in particular said he tried to block the idea that he soon would be out of the system. When he turned 18 his foster parent said to him that he could only stay there until he found somewhere else to go. That is a family?

One shared how at 18 she was abandoned. The younger one shared how she did not know who her father was until recently. She was living with her mother but one of her brothers was in foster care. Then she began to cry! We all had tears at that time.

The more we listened to their stories my heart was touched even after 15 years of opening our home to kids just like them. What makes us think that at 18 all kids want this freedom? Who says that only infants to young teens are the only ones that need to be adopted?

Elaine Barnes Bateman
Mrs. Kentucky International 2010

Elaine and her husband are creating a family. Through Ruth's Hope Project, they are also teaching others how to invite older youth into their family. What I realize as I follow Jimmy Wayne and Project Meet Me Halfway is that there are actually many people like Elaine -- people who are creating family in their communities.

Jimmy Wayne continues to create a family of supporters.  First through Ping, and now through Twitter, Jimmy Wayne fans from accross the country have become fast friends and family.  Through Twitter, Stephanie (Twitter/stephmc5) has pulled together a group of Jimmy Wayne supporters to collect needed items for Monroe Harding.  Project MMH supporters from across the country are sending her gift cards and items from the Monroe Harding wish list.  This Saturday, Stephanie and several other Jimmy Wayne fans will deliver the items to Monroe Harding and then head on over to the Opry to see Jimmy and the Radio Band.  I love this photo that Stephanie shared recently on Twitter.  I look forward to meeting lots of MMH supporters at Monroe Harding this weekend and hearing some great music at the Opry!

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