Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:19PM - 468 Views

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It‚??s no coincidence that Jimmy Wayne‚??s pets are two rescue Chihuahuas.

‚??You‚??re probably thinking I‚??m a big dog person, but I ended up with two small dogs because they needed a home,‚?Ě he said during a recent phone interview from his home in Brentwood, Tenn., where he was out walking said dogs. ‚??I couldn‚??t turn them away. They‚??re kind of a parallel of my life, if you will.‚?Ě

Wayne is not just a country artist, but an individual with a tumultuous childhood that he spun into a career as both a musician and an activist.

Wayne will put on a free performance at Breakers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Nov. 16. Space is limited, though, as the first 100 people in line for the performance will gain entry beginning at 6 p.m.

By the time he was 14, Wayne found himself bouncing from school to school and in and out of the foster care system. His mother was in prison and the only family left was his older sister, Patricia. It wasn‚??t until the age of 16 when he met Bea and Russell Costner, who would give him a home and some stability, that things turned around for the hit maker, who is responsible for songs like breakthrough hit ‚??Stay Gone,‚?Ě ‚??I Love You This Much,‚?Ě and ‚??Do You Believe Me Now.‚?Ě

The Weekender: How did you come upon the life-changing meeting with the Costners?

Jimmy Wayne: I was looking for work to buy food and knocked on their door, which is what I did in those days instead of going out and getting in trouble with the other guys who were committing crimes, going to jail, some of them getting shot or ending up being killed. I just didn‚??t want to be a part of that lifestyle and completely avoided it. It made sense to me to go up to this couple, who had a woodshop, who were in their mid-70s, and see if they needed a young kid in there to sweep the floors and, sure enough, they did.

W: How did you make the conscious decision at such a young age to stray from the crime-filled life of the people you knew?

JW: I‚??d seen enough of it and I‚??d seen the affects of what happens to people who decide to stay in trouble all the time. I‚??ve never met a successful drug dealer in my life; I‚??ve seen them wounded or dead. I wanted to be happy, to have a good life, even if it meant not having a big fancy car and all that other stuff. I just wanted to be scar-free.

W: As someone who was a foster child, what is one thing you wish people could know about foster children and the life they live?

JW: The most common perception people have of foster children is that they‚??re bad people. They‚??re in there for a reason, they must have done something wrong; well, no, not always. It‚??s hard to say that a little girl whose parents were killed in a car wreck and she ended up in a foster home when she was eight is a bad person; it‚??s not her fault. One other thing people have to realize is that in a lot of states these children reach 18 and age out of the system and most often have nowhere to go and end up homeless.

W: In 2010, you did a walk to raise awareness for that exact thing.

JW: I walked from Nashville, Tenn. to Phoenix, Ariz., 1,700 miles. I walked the back roads, I slept on the road and at strangers‚?? homes, and spread the word to everyone about it. The treasury department in Tennessee started to take notice of what I was doing. I was eventually introduced to a senator, and the governor of Tennessee ended up passing a law that no child ages out of the system at 18 anymore; that age was extended to 21. I wish every state would look at this law and realize the amount of money they could save by having it. Fifty percent of the females that age out of the system end up pregnant, and one out of four males ends up incarcerated within two years.

W: You‚??ve not only used your personal experiences to be an activist, but to pen songs. Are there any tracks stemming from that that are special to you?

JW: There‚??s a song I‚??ll be performing called ‚??Where You‚??re Going‚?Ě that‚??s special to me because the moral of the song is that it‚??s not where you‚??ve been, but where you‚??re going. It doesn‚??t matter who you are; we shouldn‚??t judge anybody by where they‚??ve been. If the Costners had judged me, I wouldn‚??t be where I‚??m at. I‚??m glad they at least gave me that chance and I am where I am today thanks to that family.

What: ‚??Catch a Rising Country Star‚?Ě performance with Jimmy Wayne, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., doors open at 6 to first 100 people in line, Breakers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs (1280 Highway 315,Wilkes-Barre). Free.

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