Jimmy Wayne has gone on a long journey to help children in the foster care system — literally. The country singer is opening up about not only his 1,700-mile walk to raise awareness for the issue, but his own experience as a foster child.

Wayne was a victim of abandonment and homelessness — he was placed into the foster care system not long after his mother left him at a gas station when he was 13. He got a second chance at a happy life when a couple in their 70s adopted him at age 16.

“I wish every state would extend foster care to 21, because it gives these children three additional years to transition into adulthood," Wayne explains to People Country. "I know the importance of that because that’s what this family did for me. They didn’t give me everything — they said you have to work for it — but it’s so important that you give these children those extra years.”

The singer is now a strong voice for foster children and the system they're placed in, making an affirmative statement when he walked from Nashville to Phoenix, Ariz. — a voyage that inspired the children's book  Ruby the Foster Dog. The walk and the book are meant to shine a light on the issue that children are forced out of the foster care system when they turn 18. Wayne has already had an impact, working with numerous states to to change laws to allow individuals to remain in foster care until they're 21.

Wayne gets to see the affect his efforts are having when foster kids inform him how much he's helped them. “There is nothing like hearing a kid say, ‘Thank you, you saved my life. I’d be homeless right now if you hadn’t done that walk,'" he shares.

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