The first thing you see when you walk into Janie’s House is a quote painted in script on the wall: “They say the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Those words from Mark Twain would resonate with anyone.
But Steven Tyler turned them into a mission.
On Nov. 1, the first-ever Janie’s House opened off a secluded road in Douglasville as part of the campus for Youth Villages, the nonprofit organization that helps emotionally and behaviorally troubled children.
The residential facility serves girls aged 12-18 who are survivors of abuse and neglect and gives them the opportunity to engage in group and individual counseling, along with other therapies, such as drumming and animal. It currently houses nine girls and has a capacity of 16.
When Tyler sashayed into Janie’s House for the first time in early December to participate in the official “scarf cutting,” he was greeted by the energetic rhythm provided by two rows of staff and kids from Youth Villages, who exhibited talents gleaned from the therapeutic drumming program.
After removing some of the jewelry weighing on his fingers, Tyler sat next to drummer girl Tatiana Rolles and seamlessly picked up the cadence on his own drum.
Tyler was motivated to begin his Janie’s Fund after a 2014 Aerosmith concert at Philips Arena, when he spent an afternoon with some of the abused girls at Youth Villages.
A year later, on the 26th anniversary of Aerosmith’s hit song about abuse, “Janie’s Got a Gun,” Tyler launched Janie’s Fund, which is housed within the Youth Villages Foundation. From it, Janie’s House emerged.
“You adopted me and my philosophy. To be a part of this has been…it’s nothing more than a beautiful thing,” he told the Youth Villages team gathered at the opening.
Tyler grew up in the Bronx, where he said he was beaten up regularly by the neighborhood kids and floundered without purpose until he discovered music. He talked about his stints in rehab and how he discovered there that there were, “a lot more girls who are abused.”
According to Youth Villages, more than 68,000 children are raped or sexually abused each year in the United States.
“I always thought that I could have a Janie’s House,” he said, visibly moved by the surroundings.
Even with his busy schedule of recording, touring and being one of the most recognizable rock stars in the world, Tyler was deeply involved in the creation of the house, a refurbished existing Youth Villages building.
“Steven designed everything, from the logos to the quotes in the rooms to the color scheme,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler, gesturing at the navy blue butterflies squiggled on the walls around more quotes, some from Aerosmith’s classic “Dream On,” and other inspirational phrases.
The goal of the house, Lawler said, is to provide these traumatized girls a place to stay. The goal is to help them through difficult situations and eventually reunite them with their families, but some may go to foster care.
During the Janie’s House presentation, 15-year-old Skylar, a transgender male who had moved into the house three weeks prior, addressed the gathered throng with heart and courage.
Being at Janie’s House was, “the greatest experience of my life,” he said, after detailing a life spent hopping through eight previous mental facilities and struggles with PTSD and manic depression.
“I have learned that not everything in the past is my fault,” he said through tears.
When finished, he walked a few feet over to Tyler, who wrapped the teenager in a hug, his eyes scrunched closed as he pulled Skylar closer.
No doubt, Tyler found an answer as to why he was born.