RIVERSIDE, Calif. The fourth annual Walk Your Talk, a fundraiser for foster children, will be held on May 3 at the Grove Community Church in Riverside. The walk is the outgrowth of Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer's commitment to children in the Inland Empire foster-care system.
The Hasemeyers put feet to their faith when they adopted seven children out of the Riverside child placement system. The children, now aged 14 to 3, joined the couple's three biological children in their Riverside home.
"We don't think everyone is called to be a foster parent," Jaci Hasemeyer said. "But we do think that everyone can do something to make a difference for these kids. We have to do something as a Christian community to take care of them. We've left it up to the government and the government has done a terrible job. But the government was never meant to parent children."
The Riverside couple encouraged their friends to follow in their footsteps. Soon, thanks to their efforts, a group of 24 children had found their "forever families."
"God has given us this calling and this vision to help as many kids as we can to find safe, Christian homes," Hasemeyer said.
Seeing yet another need, the couple started a support group for their foster family friends. Eric quit his job as a stockbroker, returned to school and earned a Masters of Psychology degree, became a Marriage and Family therapist, and started Gateway Counseling Centerall to help foster children and their families.
The Hasemeyers came up with the idea of the walk not only to raise funds but also to raise awareness and support for foster children and their families. One hundred percent of the money raised from the event goes directly to ChildSHARE, a long-established organization that recruits and supports Christian foster parents.
Attendance at the walk is up from a few dozen people in 2004 to more than 500 last year. Hasemeyer said she expects this year's event to draw more than1,000 supporters, including community leaders, Department of Children's Social Services judges and lawyers, the mayor of Riverside, and local firemen and police.
Representatives from Focus on the Family will also attend, fueling the Hasemeyers' dream that in upcoming years the walk will go national. Already, the walk is being replicated in Mission Viejo, Los Angeles, Simi Valley and in Oklahoma.
The Grove Community Church is not only the start and ending point for the 1.5-mile walk, but also a strong supporter of the Hasemeyers' efforts. Beginning in April, the church will begin 30 days of prayer for foster children. A calendar, featuring a photo and profile of a child currently in the Riverside foster-care system, will encourage congregants to pray that the child will be placed in a permanent home within one year.
The evening before the walk Anchored in Hope will hold an art show and a Mary James concert will be held at The Grove.
After the walk is complete 10 ministry tables will present opportunities for people to get involved and support foster care.
"There are many ways people can help these kids, other than foster parenting or adopting," Hasemeyer said.
People can volunteer as a court-appointed special advocate for a foster child and CASA's table will have more information about that program. Representatives from Camp Alandale, a camp for abused children, and Inspire Lifeskills Training, a program to assist foster children forced out of the system because of their age, will also host displays.
The Heart Gallery, an organization started in 2001 in New Mexico, will display pictures and profiles of children currently in the foster-care system. Their focus is on "harder to place" childrenkids who are older and groups of siblings. At 11 a.m. Camp Alandale will hold a "Predator Proofing Your Child" class.
"God expects the Christian community to take these kids in," Hasemeyer said. "People aren't aware that these kids are kicked out of the system at 18. A prisoner in the state of California is given a bus ticket and $1,000 when he is released. These kids get a pat on the back and 'good luck.' They feel helpless because they feel like nobody cares because it looks like nobody does.
"We have a mandate from the Lord. He's made it very clear in His Word that it's our responsibility to take care of them and we need to step up and do it. We hope everyone will come and join us as we Walk Our Talk."
If you'd like to host a walk at your church or for more information on participating in the Riverside or Mission Viejo events, visit www.walkyourtalkwalk.com.