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Local reaches out with big heart, big grill

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POSTED: June 9, 2010 3:06 p.m.
Photo by Richard Bates/

Wayne Jackson shows off the Coca-Cola Diner.

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Wayne Jackson’s heart is as big as his persona. A well-known builder and businessman in Richmond Hill, he’s earned the respect of colleagues and townspeople.
Before coming here 28 years ago, the Savannah native owned an industrial contracting business and worked in chemical plants and paper mills.
Family and friends have always been important to Wayne. His happiness is derived from their fun.
He will readily tell you he believes the secret to peace and happiness is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” He pauses for a second and quickly adds, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Wayne owns what he calls the world’s largest grill, or “Grillzilla,” which he uses as an outreach ministry. He donates its use to help numerous charity events and fundraisers. Volunteers do the cooking.
Grillzilla has been involved in these events: The Buddy Walk for Downs Syndrome Kids; Special Olympics; in support of Tommy Foster’s grandson who has cancer; the Tonya Bashlor Golf Tournament; Easter egg hunts; Relay for Life; and National Night Out.
Marilyn Hodges, a Grillzilla volunteer and friend of Wayne’s, sums it up beautifully. “Wayne has a big heart and an incredible faith in God.”
My friend, Richard Bates, and I heard about a special place Wayne created four years ago for family and friends. It sounded amazing – we had to go there.
It was all we imagined it would be, “The Coca-Cola Diner.” To walk inside is to take a step back to the 1950s. There are drugstore booths along one side, an air hockey table, slot machines with fake coins, popcorn machine, movie screen and karaoke. Coca-Cola, Elvis and Betty Boop memorabilia are everywhere. The whole place has a dominant Coca-Cola theme, in red of course.
If you don’t believe how awesome this place is, just ask the “Red Hat Ladies.” They were allowed to freely entertain themselves there recently and had a blast. To show Wayne their appreciation, they bought him a “collectible” for the diner.
Wayne talks about the treasures in the diner: “It’s not about the collectibles. I’m trying to generate an atmosphere for family and friends to enjoy themselves. It’s not fun to come out here and hang out alone.”
Wayne bought most of the items from flea markets and garage sales. With a big smile, he says, “I was a fast collector. I was on a hunt. Everything here is inexpensive.” (Believe it or not, he does have a square Coke bottle!)
He doesn’t worry if someone spills or breaks something. With a sincere smile he says, “I wasn’t trying to make a ‘collectible’ room. If I did, everything would be encased in glass and that wouldn’t be any fun. Things can be replaced, friendships can’t. Why have such things unless you can enjoy them?”
When I asked him if he had always been interested in the Coca-Cola theme, his response stunned me for a moment. He candidly said, “No. Growing up I was interested in Budweiser. I’ll be honest with you, if I had not changed my life nine years ago, you would be looking at a Budweiser room. I turned my life over to the Lord and that’s when it happened here – that’s why you see a Coca-Cola room.”
Three years ago Wayne was sitting alone, drinking coffee and contemplating his business finances. He knew he wanted to become involved in something the stock market and interest rates wouldn’t affect. During prayerful meditation, he had an idea of the direction he should pursue. Wayne, grandfather of five, has always enjoyed seeing children have fun. He always had a passion for special needs children and been involved with local organizations providing help wherever he could. He knew he could never go wrong working with kids.
It was then he conceived the vision to build Jump N’ Jacks. The facility, still under construction, will be coastal Georgia’s largest indoor play center. It’s located on Hwy. 17 and I-95 at Jackson Court.
It seemed fitting a few days ago for Wayne to invite a few of his friends to come to the construction site for a special purpose. He wanted them to write Bible verses of their choice on the wooden framework. Although covered by walls, the core of Jump N’ Jacks will be spiritually alive – blessed by the many quotes. Naturally Grillzilla was there, and Marilyn Hodges was once again a volunteer cook.
Jump N’ Jacks, a family oriented fun center, will be filled with interactive fun for all ages. There will be miniature bowling, two-story laser tag, a 40-foot ship 22 feet high like Toontown, arcade games and inflatables. Wayne is having a real airplane (less engine) built in 1965 hung from the ceiling, and a hot air balloon in the 50-foot foyer. It’s going to be a good clean place for kids. Wayne Jackson is a man who practices what he preaches.
As Richard and I were leaving the diner that afternoon, Wayne yelled to us, “Hey, you guys want to sing karaoke?”
 Of course, with little coaxing Richard picked up the mike and sang “Me and Bobby McGee,” and the sound equipment in the Diner is impressive! To our surprise, when Richard finished, Wayne said, “You did pretty good…now it’s my turn.” He sang “Remember When” in a style that would make Allan Jackson proud.
Once again, Wayne had shared with his friends.
 

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