Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Cross-country hiker raises awareness for foster youth
by Matt Simonette
2016-04-20

This article shared 2208 times since Wed Apr 20, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Jarett Wilkins, on April 15, arrived at the Santa Monica Pier. He had made it halfway through a 6,000-mile trek across the United States and back.

Wilkins, who is gay, undertook the hike to raise awareness about children who are in the foster care system. He started a non-profit organization, the Forever Family Walk, and is interviewing stakeholders in children's organizations and state agencies, among others, along the way.

"It started because I kept realizing that the at-risk children only got attention whenever they were in the newspaper," Wilkins said during a recent visit to Chicago. "I would read these articles and see how they were watched and cared for when they got into the system. … It seemed that a [Child and Protective Services] worker was visiting them only when they got maimed, ended up in the hospital or were dying."

The first leg, which Wilkins kicked off in August 2015, took him from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Santa Monica, California. The second leg will extend from San Diego back to New York City. The mileage is cumulative—he's had to interrupt the hike with trips for speaking engagements and personal business. His stopping points have been determined simply by where he could find people willing to talk. He hiked through Illinois in October, then returned to Chicago in March in order to help out a friend.

Wilkins, who lives in New York, previously worked in e-commerce and fashion, so he knew how to use the internet and mobile-marketing to build followers for a project. He was first inspired by an acquaintance who was walking across the country in anticipation of climbing Mount Everest.

"I researched people who had walked across the country before," he said. "One kid was 12 when he did it in 2009, and used social media to talk about programs that helped homeless youth. So I kind of piggy-backed off his platform and decided that the best way for me to bring awareness to what I was finding out—that there was no clear line of regulations across the country for these youth—would be to contact organizations in every state that had successful programs or a relevant voice."

Wilkins has been interviewing officials from the programs and highlighting his findings through various social media platforms. He keeps a handwritten notebook filled with his findings. "I'm a bad writer," he admitted, laughing. "But I'm a good interviewer, and I know how to pick the right people."

He carries all his belongings in his backpack, which weighs about 40 pounds and which he's nicknamed "Wilson," after Tom Hanks' volleyball in the film Castaway. Most nights he sleeps in a small tent, which he usually posts behind a large sign or someplace else where he can remain conspicuous. When the weather is really bad, he'll spring for a cheap motel.

Stories of LGBT youth and LGBT families are unsurprisingly common in Wilkins' interviews, he said. In the first interview he did, a Virginia official told him there was no data available on LGBT youth in that state's system. That omission had serious repercussions, since LGBT youths would sometimes be removed from or kicked out of a home by intolerant parents, then end up in a home with equally intolerant foster parents.

Wilkins' interview questions vary from state to state. Some states are harder on youths than others, he said.

"When I got to Kansas, it was pretty bad," he recalled. "Their [Department of Children and Family] was doing a witch hunt on the LGBT community. They had removed a two-month-old baby from a lesbian home and placed the child in the home of a [Topeka] city council member, who had 16 kids in the house who were biological, adopted and fostered. His wife was pregnant again at the time. They both were arrested and jailed for child abuse, so all those kids went back into foster care. That baby fortunately went back to the lesbian couple. It's a privatized state."

He's been transcribing his findings from the notebook along the way. "I want to get a data team on board, because I know a bunch of them from mobile-marketing, and then try to put these numbers together. …That's why it's so important to pick the right organizations to talk to. I've been able to connect directors of programs with each other, just by the interviews and hearing them talk. That's one good thing that's going to be able to come out of this."

When the second leg of his journey is completed, Wilkins said, he wants to keep going, perhaps through northern states he has missed.

"I'm not going to lie, I'd like to keep traveling," he added. "I'd like to keep going around and visiting these places, and try to figure out a place that would allow me to keep doing it."

Wilkins' fundraising site is at www.gofundme.com/x3a2kc3k .


This article shared 2208 times since Wed Apr 20, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

SPORTS Chicago White Sox clinch playoff spot
2021-09-24
For the first time in 13 years, the Chicago White Sox are the American League Central champions. The team defeated Cleveland 7-2 on Sept. 23 as it split a doubleheader that officially eliminated the Guardians (formerly ...


Gay News

Indiana students sue over gay-straight club's alleged treatment
2021-09-24
In Pendleton, Indiana, a group of Pendleton Heights High School students has filed a lawsuit against the school and South Madison Community School Corporation over allegations that the school has been treating its Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) ...


Gay News

SPORTS Chicago Sky win playoff game against Dallas Wings
2021-09-24
In WNBA action, the Chicago Sky defeated the Dallas Wings 81-64 in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, at Wintrust Arena on Sept. 23. Under current head coach and general manager James Wade, the team ...


Gay News

Proceeds from 30th Annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago to help 26 HIV/AIDS organizations
2021-09-22
--From a press release - CHICAGO — On Saturday, Oct. 2, at 9:30 a.m., more than 1,700 advocates and supporters will gather safely at Soldier Field to participate in the 30th annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago (ARWC) to support individuals ...


Gay News

RECREATION Metropolitan Club's BigShots Golf Lounge
2021-09-22
BigShots Golf Lounge is part of the Metropolitan Club's rebranding. Despite the perceived exclusivity of the Metropolitan, the lounge—on the 67th floor of Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr.—is a state-of-the-art area that is accessible to ...


Gay News

SOCCER U.S. women win big over Paraguay again
2021-09-22
Five days after Carli Lloyd scored five goals against Paraguay, Alex Morgan scored a hat trick (three goals) as the U.S. women's national soccer team (USWNT) downed the same country 8-0 on Sept. 21 in Cincinnati, ...


Gay News

OPALGA+ Scholarship Gala taking place Oct. 23
2021-09-21
The 2021 OPALGA+ (Oak Park Area Lesbian & Gay Association+) Scholarship Gala will take place Saturday, Oct. 23, at Nineteenth Century Club, 178 Forest Ave., Oak Park. Cocktails will begin at 6 p.m., with the program/dinner ...


Gay News

[UPDATE] Lisle school offers job to lacrosse coach in same-sex marriage
2021-09-21
The administration at Lisle’s Benet Academy, a west suburban Catholic school, has reversed course and offered a job to a woman in a same-sex marriage after initially rescinding the offer, The Chicago Tribune reported. ...


Gay News

SPORTS Sky end regular season with win, get ready for playoffs
2021-09-20
The Chicago Sky ended their regular season on a positive note, beating the Indiana Fever 98-87 at Chicago's Wintrust Arena on Sept. 19. Diamond DeShields tied her career-high point total, scoring 30 while shooting 61.5% from ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Genera+ion' axed, sports items, Wilson Cruz, k.d. lang, Lil Nas X
2021-09-19
HBO Max did now renew Genera+ion, its OC-high-school-set dramedy, out.com noted. "We will not be moving forward with a second season of Genera+ion," a spokesperson for HBO Max said in a statement. "We are very proud ...


Gay News

SPORTS Aces rout Sky 103-70
2021-09-18
In WNBA action, the Las Vegas Aces routed the Chicago Sky 103-70 at Wintrust Arena on Sept. 17. A day after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared Sept. 16 to be "Candace Parker Day," the Sky forward ...


Gay News

SOCCER Lloyd scores five goals as U.S. women rout Paraguay
2021-09-17
Scoring five goals in a soccer match can be called a glut or even a "repoker." Whatever it's called, Carli Lloyd accomplished that incredible feat as the U.S. women's national team routed Paraguay 9-0 in Cleveland ...


Gay News

Gay Games XI postponed because of pandemic
2021-09-16
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming Gay Games XI have been moved from November 2022 to November 2023, Outsports reported. "Given the ongoing uncertainty regarding the state of travel restrictions internationally and in Hong Kong, ...


Gay News

USWNT national soccer team slams contract offer
2021-09-16
The United States Women's National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) is calling the U.S. Soccer Federation's offer of identical contracts for its women's and men's national teams a publicity stunt, according to Yahoo! Sports. On S ...


Gay News

Students urged to apply for Musical Theatre Awards
2021-09-14
Broadway in Chicago is inviting high schools across Illinois to participate in the 11th Annual Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards. These awards celebrate excellence in high school theater throughout the state. Beginning Thursday, Sept. 16, ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.