SMALL TOWNS: Shawano woman emerges from darkness to shine light on hometown
Jeff Alexander is back on the anchor desk following ankle surgery, but it will still be a while until he can get out in the field and start reporting again. In the meantime, he’s choosing some of his favorite Small Towns reports from its first year.
SHAWANO, Wis. (WBAY) - Just four years ago, she was spending most of her time in bed suffering from grief and depression. Today, she’s a shining light in her hometown, spreading good news and helping others heal.
This week in Small Towns, we travel to Shawano for the inspirational story of Jaime Lee.
And at the end of each episode, Jaime leaves viewers with a little encouragement.
“This is Jaime Lee reminding you to keep livin’ and lovin’ in the 54166,” says Jaime at the end of one of her recent episodes, referring to the local ZIP Code.
Born and raised in Shawano, Jaime always loved the bright lights.
“Since I was a little girl I always loved to sing and dance and perform, I was even a Patsy Cline impersonator, so I always like being on state and always had a lot of fun growing up here, I love where I’m from,” says Jaime.
What she didn’t realize though back then, was the grief she carried inside over losing her father in a car crash at a young age.
“There was a lot of buried grief there and a lot of childhood trauma, even though I had a really good life it was something that I always carried with me,” says Jaime.
After high school Jaime earned a broadcast journalism degree from U.W.-Eau Claire, but she then returned home to start a family, grateful to be able to stay at home to raise her young son.
Her days of happiness, though, eventually came to an end.
“When Charlie got older and was in school more and more I was at home and people didn’t know I was secretly sleeping a lot, kind of uninspired and had lost my spark, forgot who I was and I guess I felt like I didn’t have a purpose anymore. I was sleeping my life away,” recalls Jaime.
Anxiety, depression and grief drove Jaime into a tailspin, leading her to sleep an average of 15 hours a day for years, feeling helpless.
“What can I do in this small little town? I’m in my 40′s, my chance is gone. But I was wrong,” explains Jaime.
In 2018, Jaime learned her cousin, Ryan Kamps, who she was extremely close to, died by suicide.
“When he took his life it woke me up. It was like, I need to take a look at my own mental health, I need to live,” says Jaime.
That’s when Jaime discovered yoga.
“I just put on some really gentle classes on YouTube, Yoga with Adriene, and did child’s pose for the first 6 months and just cried, and yoga helped me feel for the first time the stuff that I was sleeping away and buried started to come up and I was able to process some of the old pain, the grief, the anxiety and started to remember who I was all those years ago,” says Jaime.
So profound and life-changing, Jaime decided to become a certified yoga instructor.
Two years ago, she started Crazy Heart Yoga, connecting with students through her personal story.
“I love that she’s real, I love that she puts it out there and every class is almost like an addiction for me because I know that I can go in maybe down in the dumps, but can come out encouraged,” says Bonnie Manthey from Shawano.
“She’s like a ray of sunshine, how she portrays her energy just bounces off everybody else in the class,” adds Megan Brady from Gresham.
During the height of COVID, Jaime turned to social media to spread a smile every morning through her yoga.
She then met with a producer at a local video production company.
“And I said let’s do some yoga videos, let’s do some good news videos because of this pandemic. There’s so much negativity and fear-based stuff and politics and let’s just do some feel-good stories, and he’s like, ‘By the way I have Shawano News domain.’ I’m like, ‘Perfect, you like videos, I like entertaining, let’s partner up together.’ That’s what led to Shawano News,” explains Jaime.
Each week, Jaime and photographer-producer Aaron Wallrich find a business, event or person in the community to profile.
It’s all positive all the time, just like Jaime.
“She is what she is. I don’t know. When I watch the videos and my family watches them, that’s Jaime,” says Wallrich
And if Shawano News and her yoga aren’t enough, Jaime recently became the Sun Drop Girl for Shawano’s famous Twigs Beverage.
“In the last 3 years, I have literally woken up out of bed physically, spiritually, mentally and started to believe in myself, healed myself and started chasing my dreams. Life is good,” says Jaime with a smile.
After spending some time with Jaime, it’s easy to see she’s found peace in her life and is now a bright light, livin’ and lovin’ in the 54166.
Earlier this month, Jaime Lee, founder of Crazy Heart Yoga, led a fundraiser for National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Brown County affiliate to honor the life of Ryan Kamps. Chris Roth interviewed her on Action 2 News at 4:30 ahead of the event.
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