With the support of powerful music, one man is walking across the country to raise awareness for the autistic homeless.
His name is Ryan Keen and he is doing a ‘Walk-A-Thon’ to raise awareness for autistic homeless, with an end goal of providing a community for them to live at. With mental disorders affecting around 30% of the homeless population, bringing about awareness is the first step in helping the homeless. Autism is just one of the prevalent disorders the homeless face.
A driving force in Keen’s mission has been the music from Strange Music, helping him get out of those dark places in life. Krizz Kaliko’s “Created A Monster” is one of the songs that especially inspired Ryan.
“That song sounds like it was made for me,” said Keen. “It’s so painful hearing that song. Either he’s been where I was or he was sent to write that song for me. Every time I heard that song, I thought, maybe it’s my job to keep someone else from feeling depressed. Maybe that will help me. Maybe I can go do something to help somebody.”
Anytime someone gets depressed, music has the power to lift people out. Strange Music especially has that power in lifting people’s spirits and letting people know you’re not alone. Referring to the artists on Strange, Keen says, “Their words come out of my mouth – I just couldn’t put them on paper like they can. It’s incredible. It’s like they’re inside of me, speaking my words.”
Ryan’s life has been full of struggles. Keen grew up with an alcoholic dad who beat his mom until Ryan was 8 years old, when his mother left and remarried. His mother has since passed away. Through that marriage, Ryan has two half-sisters that he hasn’t talked to in 25 years, until he started this walk. He had to give up his only son to adoption, lost his best friend to cancer, and says one of his lowest points was when he visited Florida and began using heroin.
“I’d do anything at any moment for a good time,” Keen said. “I’d give anything a shot. I never used a needle until one day when I visited Florida. I was shooting up heroin and trying to kill myself. I woke up 4 times in the hospital.”
This walk, however, has allowed Keen to reach a high point.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” Keen said. “I feel great, inside and out. I don’t have anything, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with myself at this moment.”
Prozak is another artist whose music has deeply impacted Ryan.
“I listen to Prozak’s ‘Until Then’ over and over and over. I listen to that song every day. EVERY DAY.”
It was Prozak’s song “Until Then” that got Ryan through a 41 mile trek, which subsequently inspired this Walk-A-Thon. Keen was down trodden after being deserted at a gas station by his then girlfriend. He eventually hitched a ride to a motel, stayed there for a night, checked out and walked 41 miles to the next gas station. After realizing he walked 41 miles, he called his sister to say that he wants to walk across the country for a cause. She suggested autism, since she works with autistic children for a living. From there, Ryan and his sister teamed up with Jim Wining of Acts Media Group, a non-profit broadcasting group that helps other non-profits gain traction.
The end goal of Ryan Keen’s Walk-A-Thon is to create a community for the autistic homeless.
“This is going to be 100% non-profit,” said Keen. “There might be a select few homeless people that may be housed [at the shelter] to help with upkeep. I’d like to put together a group of a few good homeless people to cut the grass, to cook the meals, just keep it up. If they do that, they’ll be living in one of these houses for free. There are people out there that want to do that and want the responsibility. There are homeless people that aren’t getting drunk or high. I’ll find some of them to help with this.”
Throughout his walk so far, Ryan has met some incredible strangers who have given him money, food, water, and some who even recognized him from his Facebook and stopped to take their picture with him. He is ending his walk in Jacksonville, FL, so be on the look out if he stops by your town. Stay up to date on his progress HERE.
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