By Alicia Wanek
According to Eddie Coker, “Life just does what it does,” and in 2020 the world has seen just how true that is. This performer wants to ensure, however, that we are all equipped to face life’s challenges. Eddie and the Wezmore Project team have developed a multi-faceted program to focus on strategies to help kids, in particular, to meet life head-on. Their mission is “…to help young people and their families navigate the complexity of our emotional lives with practical skills and tips that are delivered through a variety of highly engaging media.”
If you were raising children in North Texas in the early 2000’s, you likely know Eddie Coker. His kid-friendly songs, performances that exhausted every parent just watching, and enthusiasm that could encourage even the shyest listener to get up and dance had quite a following at festivals, malls, and outdoor events. Now based in Colorado, Eddie still has more energy than many of the kids he performs for, but he’s expanded his message with the Wezmore Project. He calls it “Eddie Coker 4.0.”
The Wezmore name was a term his son came up with as a third grader years ago. When copyright rules kept him from using another name for his newly forming nonprofit Eddie “went back on the shelf in (his) brain” and decided, “We’re going to appropriate the meaning.” Regarding this made-up name for his nonprofit, he reminds his team and his audiences that “there’s a WE in Wezmore” and we don’t go through life alone; they help kids focus on the “Wezzers” – love, enjoyment, and satisfaction; and to “wez” has become its own verb, meaning to incorporate the tricks and tools Wezmore promotes in your daily life. You can even buy cool Wezmore “swag” in the Wezmart.
The motivation for Wezmore is based on some pretty staggering statistics about mental health and challenges in today’s youth.
The project’s website details some of them, including that 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.; that 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 results in approximately 4600 lives lost each year; and that 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more within a school semester.
Eddie decided, “I’m going to do my share to address the problems we have as humans,” and so he’s devoted his abundant creativity and skills as a musician to help kids cope.
Using what Eddie calls, “short, joyful interrupters and engaging exercises that encourage kids to live in the moment and practice mindfulness,” Wezmore’s social media, livestreams, videos, and of course, Eddie’s in-person concerts all encourage kids to “interact with the moment in such a way that leads to a deeper joy.” That’s the group’s mantra, which guides all they do. Their tools are based on science and have been approved by the SMU Center on Research and Evaluation. “I love the image of a kid being able to say to themselves, ‘Wait, I have something for this,’” Eddie says, whether that something they learned was from a song, meditation, message, or an image to address a feeling or situation.
He helps kids see “At the center of all is a thing called choice,” and if they can learn to “catch” a negative thought they can remain in control.
It’s not always just for young kids, either. As audiences get older, Eddie has realized that by using the hook, “This is what I do for young kids…” it disarms the listener, and in the end, everyone is still receptive to Wezmore’s message. Ultimately, we can all use a few more life skills to, as the organization says, “Lovemore, Peacemore, Joymore, Wezmore.” When 2020 is long past, let’s hope those skills live on.
Subscribe at https://thewezmoreproject.org/get-involved-1#contact.