- Associated Press - Monday, August 2, 2010

NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - Country singer Jimmy Wayne can finally put his feet up.

He arrived in Phoenix Sunday with a broken foot after walking approximately 1,700 miles over the past seven months. A high school marching band and several hundred fans walked with Wayne down the home stretch as he approached his destination at HomeBase Youth Services.

Wayne took steps gingerly with his right foot in a walking boot while people chanted his name.

Wayne started the “Meet Me Halfway” campaign on Jan. 1 in Nashville with the goal of walking halfway across the country for at-risk youth, specifically for those in danger of aging out of the foster care system with no support or resources. He was a homeless teen, in and out of foster homes, until a couple took him at age 16.

“I hope that when someone says, ‘Wow. He walked halfway across America to raise awareness for at-risk teens,’ I hope that they realize that the most important part of that sentence is ‘at-risk teens who are aging out of the system and becoming homeless,’” Wayne said in an interview. “The walk itself … a lot of people are blown away with that, but I hope that they’re more blown away with the message.”

Wayne, whose biggest hit is “Do You Believe Me Now?”, braved extreme weather conditions throughout his walk. After taking off in the dead of winter, he remembered sleeping on the ground in single-digit temperatures, saying it was so cold that his sleeping bag froze over. He also had to face brutal heat, walking through the desert in the middle of summer. The journey was longer and harder than he ever anticipated.

“There’s that little side of me that says, ‘I’m glad I didn’t know,’ because if I had known, I’m almost certain, I know me, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” said Wayne. “I’m glad I didn’t know what lay ahead. I’m glad I didn’t know the timeframe. I’m just glad I went into it as blind as I did.”

Wayne said he will always be involved in efforts to end teen homelessness, but he’s happy that his trek is over.

“I plan on doing my part. I don’t plan on walking six states again. I won’t ever do that again,” said Wayne, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything this hard again. I’ll I’m doing is asking folks just to help me take the awareness that we’ve raised already and keep nurturing it.”

Wayne gives full credit to his foster parents, Russell and Beatrice Costner, for changing his life. He said they took him off the streets as a teen and encouraged his music career.

“They were so supportive of me when I lived there,” said Wayne. “I started writing poems when I was 12, but Mrs. Costner realized that I wrote poems, and she also wrote poems. She played the piano and she was always telling me, You should put your poems with music.’”

They both passed away many years ago, but their influence on his life continues.

“I think that they would be very happy to know that I followed my heart once again.”


Associated Press video producer Yvonne Leow in Phoenix contributed to this report.




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