Larry Perkins embodies the American dream, going from a sharecropper’s shack in Halifax County to vice president and assistant general manager of PNC Arena.
Larry Perkins lived the American nightmare, abandoned by his mother and passed between family members before being sent to live with his abusive father in tiny Enfield, where he essentially served as a child laborer.
When he was 16, he had $1.72 in his pocket, standing in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, the first time he ever left Enfield. Today, Perkins has three kids in college and so many professional credentials and certifications that he has more letters after his name than a cardiologist.
Perkins made it out. He broke the cycle of hopelessness that sends so many foster children straight into welfare when they turn 18. He did it through sheer force of perseverance and will.
And now he’s trying to help others do the same.
In writing his memoir, a process that turned out to be extremely cathartic, Perkins was gripped by the desire to help others in similar situations heal the same way and founded a nonprofit called Foster a Voice.
“I just didn’t want to write a book,” Perkins said. “I wanted to make a difference. Writing this book has been so therapeutic for me. It’s allowed me to be free like I’ve never been free in my life. Which is why I wanted to do something for foster kids and adopted kids and those who have been abused, living in unsafe environments.”
Its first big project: a short film called “Silence” about two sisters who are separated after their mother dies. A trailer has been produced, but Foster a Voice is trying to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter to make the film itself. With three weeks left, more than $1,600 has been raised but there’s a long way to go.
The statistics Perkins cites are mindblowing: Fifity percent of foster girls get pregnant within a few years of aging out of the system; 50 percent of foster children are incarcerated within two years of aging out; and 30 percent of America’s homeless were once in foster care.
“It’s a perpetual cycle that just goes round and round,” Perkins said. “You can’t get out.”
Perkins made it out. The trip to New York at 16 to find his mother worked out poorly – she had a new family and sent him straight back to North Carolina – but he later went back to New York, got a degree in criminal justice and became a private investigator.
For 24 years, he worked at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey, rising to the very top of the arena-security field before coming home in 2000 to what was then called the Entertainment and Sports Arena, where he literally wrote the book – “Crowd Safety and Survival” – on crowd management and arena safety in 2004.
When he finished that professional challenge, he turned to his own life, but writing his memoir only led him back to where he started, as a child moved from home to home, always wondering where his biological mother was.
It took a decade to deal with all of that, and it led him here, to this project, to this new calling, at age 67. He titled the book “Buck Seventy-Two: A Destiny of Will” and will donate all the proceeds to Foster a Voice when it comes out in May, Foster Care Awareness Month.
“Hopefully, we can make a difference,” Perkins said. “That’s what this is all about. It’s no longer about me. I’ve healed a lot. If we can get other people healed and going in that right direction, being liberated by discovering who they are, that’s great.”