“I got into radio because my dad was bipolar and my mom was concerned that he was likely to bolt at some point, so she encouraged me to go to work with my dad. I started hanging out at radio stations and learning the business. This is the only thing I’ve ever done.”
Jaxon, who is familiar to radio listeners as “Shotgun Jaxon” on Kansas City’s hit country station 106.5 The Wolf, recalls living a childhood filled with many ups and downs. His dad, who he describes as undiagnosed manic depressive, worked in radio with big goals and expectations of life. He would frequently move their family of 6 when getting a new job.
“He would be working his butt off and then just like that, he would get “sick,” is what we were told,” Jaxon recalls. “He wouldn’t want to get out of bed and he’d end up letting things slack at work and he’d lose his job. We would find ourselves in a situation where we eventually couldn’t pay the rent and had to move out.”
Their family would depend on relatives to live with during these transition periods. But the moves weren’t always smooth.
“One time we found ourselves, what it seemed like at the time, wandering aimlessly in a car and getting low on gas and not having any money – for food, for gas, shelter, nothing,” he said.
While the details of these memories seem faint to Jaxon now as an adult, the feelings he experienced are still raw.
It was after this moment that the radio personality, with one of the most recognized voices in the city, remembers a life-changing occurrence. He was around 10-12 years old.
“It was eventually time to do something about that because it was not tenable,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you where I was, but we pulled into The Salvation Army.”
He can vividly remember his feelings during this moment in time.
“My vision of what that meant at the time was where “other people” go. It wasn’t us. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating and I didn’t want to get out of the car. In fact, the whole family went in and they were in there for a while and I stayed in the car because I was embarrassed by the whole thing and I didn’t want to admit it.”
The Salvation Army family shelter provided Jaxon’s entire family with a safe place to stay, food and living necessities for a few days, along with a friendly and supportive staff to help get them back on their feet.
“They treated us like human beings. It wasn’t awkward in any way and it didn’t feel like I had expected it to feel. For that, I’m very thankful,” he said.
Jaxon said this stay at The Salvation Army likely made a life-changing difference in his family’s livelihood.
“If they were not there, there’s probably a good chance that our family would have been split up,” he said. “Things would have turned out a lot differently. But they were there and they provided a hand and didn’t judge. They made me—a really sensitive, embarrassed kid—feel welcome.”
Jaxon believes that if The Salvation Army did not take his family in, the government would have gotten involved and he and his siblings may have grown up in foster care.
“They kept us together and they provided that gentle boost, that gentle lift that we needed at the time” he said.
Jaxon remembers the moments leading up to that drive into The Salvation Army parking lot.
“Before we showed up my parents spent a bunch of time at a payphone trying to contact people,” he remembers. “The problem is that we had six people. I remember that being a difficult part of it. I also remember that one of the reasons why I stayed in the car was because I thought there might not be enough room for me. I thought I would just sleep in the car.”
He said The Salvation Army made accommodations for his large family to ensure they could all stay together and were comfortable.
“The feeling that I got from it was very welcoming and very opposite from what I was feeling at the time…which was shame.”
Years later, into his adulthood, Jaxon took his father to seek medical attention for his condition. He was officially diagnosed as bipolar and received treatment to help with the disease until he passed. While some of his childhood memories remain vague, he secured a valuable lesson from the roller coaster ride.
“To me, the important part about all of this, is that it can happen to anybody,” said Jaxon. “There are plenty of people, through no fault of their own, who have fallen on hard times and just simply need a little helping hand that can get them through the hard time. And usually, barring any kind of major emotional or psychological or medical problem, they will dig themselves out of it.”