Photo courtesy of The Wezmore Project

Concerted effort! The Wezmore Project delivers a new kind of entertainment for kids

by FWD>DFW | September 30, 2019

Feelings are complicated. Relationships are tricky. Pressures can be overwhelming. And, many times, society has been taught to ignore these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, causing a decline in collective emotional health.

It’s something that veteran singer, songwriter, and performer Eddie Coker noticed over the course of entertaining more than one million children across the nation — and more than 30 years in the business.

So, he decided to do something about it. Enter The Wezmore Project. The Texas-based 501(c)3 focuses on teaching children, teens, families, and educators about emotional wholeness and emotional intelligence while helping them navigate the complexity of their lives with practical skills and tips that are delivered through a variety of highly engaging media. 

Wezmore delivers a brand of entertainment and education with a purposed set of messages that encourages greater self-valuing, generosity, and a deeper understanding of shared human struggles. 

Making an impact

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24 and it results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.

Approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at emergency departments across the U.S.

Seventeen percent of American students report being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school semester.  This number climbs to 43% in the teen years in the form of cyberbullying. What’s more, it is estimated that one out of four elementary school bullies will have a criminal record by the time they are 30.

Coker couldn’t ignore what he witnessed personally from working with kids — or what these critical statistics reinforced. So, he found a bigger purpose for his entertaining stage time. Here’s what else he had to say.

Tell us about where you grew up and how giving back was a part of your family dynamic.

I grew up in Highland Park. (For grins, see the below picture. Already singing opera *wink wink* by 4th grade!)

Both my parents were very generous with their time and money — and still are — whether it was for someone needing a hand up personally or for a charitable entity! 

How have you made the shift from children’s performer into the world of philanthropy? 

There really wasn’t much of a transition because philanthropy expresses the “desire to promote the welfare of others.” I took what I have been doing for 32 years, found some truly like-minded individuals who believed in our mission to help young people learn about emotional wholeness and wellness, and said: “LET’S DO THIS!”

Would you share your story of how you started The Wezmore Project and how it has grown?  

I could write a novel as to the many reasons I began the nonprofit, but bottom line is I am a fan of human flourishing! What better place to start a potent dialogue as to what creates that flourishing than in childhood?  We are a young organization, but since April of 2016, more than 100,000 students and 1,500-plus teachers from 225 schools around the country have participated in our live concert series. Not bad! Next steps are to create systems and networks that immerse young people into the methods we have developed to truly help build that loving, caring, resilient human being. 

What stories have most impacted you during your time working with kids? 

One that pops up super quick is the story of a young 4th grader who, in his own words, had zero friends in elementary school. He was awkward, shy, and did not really know how to make friends. He told me that one day this crazy kids’ entertainer named Eddie Coker came to his school. During a particularly wild part of the concert, he got up the nerve to ask a student next to him if he wanted to dance. The kid said yes. They became friends. This experience taught him how to make other friends. That kid now works with The Wezmore Project! Serendipity baby!

Tell us about your upcoming performance at St. Philip’s School.

I love this school. Neiman Marcus underwrote the very first concert I ever did for them and that was more than 25 years ago! I so admire Dr. Flowers, their staff, and all the people who have helped St. Philip’s become the “shining city on the hill” that they are! 

Want more serendipity? I wrote a song called WE WANNA BE THE PRESIDENT in 1997. The gist of the song centers around the desire for young people to be the president collectively. More than 60 kids from St. Philip’s sang in the chorus for that recording. What address did I have to show up at to rehearse these lovely children of St. Philip’s? 1600 Pennsylvania.

How can people support your work and get involved?

If anyone is interested in underwriting a concert at their school of choice, or interested in helping to underwrite the creation of our curriculum we are at present developing, please contact me at eddie@wezmore.com

Folks can also support us financially by simply going to www.thewezmoreproject.org, select SUPPORT WEZMORE, and scroll down to the DONATE button! 

Portions of this interview by Jan Osborn were originally published by Dallas Doing Good.

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