Good Boy Roy on CNN online

Zack Hix, 18, is the creator of the Good Boy Roy cartoon characters. Zack was diagnosed with a range of mental disorders, and his family believes his drawings provide an important outlet. Zack Hix, 18, is the creator of the Good Boy Roy cartoon characters. Zack was diagnosed with a range of mental disorders, and his family believes his drawings provide an important outlet.

Zack's family hopes his cartoons might provide a way for him to make a living down the road. Although his family lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, Zack and his father are avid Georgia Bulldog fans.

Zack’s family hopes his cartoons might provide a way for him to make a living down the road. Although his family lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, Zack and his father are avid Georgia Bulldog fans.

The Good Boy Roy characters are based on Zack's experiences and the people in his life. Zack's younger sister Kelsie, shown above, inspired the Volleyball Girl character. The Good Boy Roy characters are based on Zack’s experiences and the people in his life. Zack’s younger sister Kelsie, shown above, inspired the Volleyball Girl character.
Zack's psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Richards, says the Good Boy Roy characters could represent Zack's belief that everyone should be nice to one another. Zack’s psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Richards, says the Good Boy Roy characters could represent Zack’s belief that everyone should be nice to one another.
The Hix family together for a family photo. From the left: Kim, Kelsie, Zack and Doug. Zack is the creator of Good Boy Roy, and Kim is the president. The Hix family together for a family photo. From the left: Kim, Kelsie, Zack and Doug. Zack is the creator of Good Boy Roy, and Kim is the president.
Zack will soon begin working on a children's book about bullying, something he experienced during middle school. Zack will soon begin working on a children’s book about bullying, something he experienced during middle school.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zack Hix is the creator of the cartoon characters in Good Boy Roy
  • He is diagnosed with a laundry list of mental health disorders
  • Art has always been his avenue for self-expression
  • His family wants to turn his artwork into a career so he can support himself

Editor’s note: This story is part of CNN’s American Journey series, showing how people are turning passions into jobs. Share your story with CNN iReport, and you could be featured in a CNN story.

(CNN) — On the surface, Zack Hix is like many 18-year-olds.

The Simpsonville, South Carolina, teen’s favorite foods are cheeseburgers and pizza. He listens to rock and punk music. He loves to race mountain bikes, play video games, watch Georgia Bulldogs football with his dad and — perhaps most importantly — draw.

But Zack also suffers from a laundry list of mental health issues, including both intermittent explosive- and obsessive-compulsive disorders, which make him different from other kids his age and threaten to inhibit his ability to function as an independent adult.

Zack is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, in addition to the IED and OCD. He also has Tourette syndrome and tics that are the result of a Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection in the fifth grade.

Artistic self-expression through drawing helps to balance Zack’s struggles. Together, the Hix family is on a journey to turn a series of Zack’s characters into a career as a cartoonist.

“If we can make a go of this and he can work for himself doing what he loves to do — chances are he is not going to be able to work in a traditional setting; they’re so up and down with how they function — maybe he can support himself after high school and not have to sit back and collect disability as a person who cannot hold a job,” his mother, Kim Hix, said.

The Good Boy Roy crew — including Roy, Zman and Rocker Rick — are charismatic, athletic and musically talented. They are likenesses of Zack and those close to him. Life’s joys and tribulations also inspire Zack’s art, whether it’s expressing his faith in God, standing up to bullies or maintaining a positive outlook on life.

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“The images come to my head,” he says. “I just capture them and put them on paper.”

‘I know that it is the illness’

Kim Hix, 46, is the president of Good Boy Roy, in addition to her roles as part-time personal trainer, an advocate for children in court proceedings and, of course, full-time mother.

“When Zack does awful things, I know that is the illness,” she says. “He is so loving and sweet and thinks of others.”

She knew early on that Zack was different, she says. He wouldn’t sleep alone, screamed to the point where she thought he was going to hurt himself and had trouble processing the reasons he was disciplined.

The family had no history of mental disorders, so Kim Hix started taking Zack to doctors.

“We didn’t know what to think,” she says. “We were kind of bewildered.”

Zack’s father, Doug Hix, says it sometimes feels like they are isolated and on an island, but points out that many people have it worse.

Kim Hix says Zack’s struggles continue to affect the family, especially Kelsie, 14.

“None of this is in your control really,” says Kim. “You can’t fix these things. If it’s a bad day, if it’s chaotic, you pray a lot and when you wake up you hope the next day is better.”

No broad brush on his symptoms

Zack has seen psychiatrist Dr. Robert Richards since elementary school.

Richards doesn’t use a broad brush to describe Zack’s symptoms, he says, because the disorders manifest themselves differently according to the individual, the responsiveness to treatment and the resources available. But Richards did classify Zack’s problems as severe.

Still, the teen has a “high-level of sensitivity and intuitiveness,” Richards said. His drawings could be a way for him to express his view that people should be treated with kindness.

“If you look at other aspects of personality growth and development, he has a strong capacity for empathy,” says Richards.

Dr. Ken Duckworth, a psychiatrist and the medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says the two most important variables in treating mental disorders and illness are family support and the patient’s willingness to accept help from loved ones.

Kim says Zack is family-oriented, always wanting to be near and spend time with his parents.

“I can’t tell them how much I love them in words,” says Zack.

Doug Hix, who has been married to Kim for 21 years, works for an engineering company. At times, his work puts him on the road for two or three weeks a month. When he is home, Doug says he makes spending time with his children a priority. He and Zack race mountain bikes, follow the Atlanta Braves and never miss a University of Georgia football game.

“When he’s at a calm state, when he’s the Zack that we know and love, he’s a great kid,” Doug Hix says. “If his med levels are where they need to be, he can focus. Interaction with faculty and student body, it’s spot on. You’d never expect anything.”

It’s those other times — when he can’t remain calm — that trouble his parents.

Zack’s OCD can cause him to grasp onto single thoughts. He’ll want to do things perfectly and not being able to can sometimes propel him into a rage that can last for hours, his mother says. The episodes have occurred since Zack was a child.

Enter Good Boy Roy

Zack has drawn pictures since he was old enough to hold a pen. He has always gravitated toward cartoons, Japanimation characters and superheroes, his parents say. Drawing seems to provide Zack the context his compulsions won’t allow, and his mother says he’s always used artistic expression to apologize after acting out.

The characters are based on Zack and those close to him. Volleyball Girl was inspired by his younger sister, Kelsie, and Handsome Hen takes after the man who introduced Zack to “The Simpsons,” his uncle Henry.

In 2009, Zack took a stack of Good Boy Roy drawings to his mother and asked what she thought. She liked them enough to have one printed on a red T-shirt, his favorite color.

Zack wore the shirt everywhere. Kim Hix had already considered making Good Boy Roy a business, but when she saw how proud the T-shirt made Zack, she wondered if it might be a way for Zack to support himself after high school if his mental health issues prove to be barriers to employment.

“I have always been a fixer,” she said. “That has been my job since Zack was born, trying to get him help and get him the resources that can help him progress.”

Since 2010, Zack’s mother says he has made about $12,000 from merchandise and custom design sales, so the business is very much part-time. He has also illustrated a children’s book, “A World Without Circles.” The book’s publisher has asked Zack to work on a children’s book about bullying, something he experienced during middle school related to his Tourette’s syndrome, his mother says.

Zack plans to graduate from high school in 2014 and hopes to continue spreading Good Boy Roy’s message. He wants Roy, Zman and Rocker Rick to be known worldwide so they can inspire others with disabilities to find work.

Meanwhile, Kim Hix is learning how to juggle building a business with her own career and being a mother and wife. It’s still very much a work in progress, but she hopes Good Boy Roy will reach other families dealing with mental health disorders and let them know they’re not alone.

“Good Boy Roy, the business and brand, was launched to share with the world this story of hope, determination and overcoming challenges; [to] reach parents of children like Zack, to let them know they are not alone in their heartache and uncertainty; [to] let the kids know that anything is possible, and being different is OK.”

Mental Health America…Run 4 Hope

How do you like the newest Custom design from Good Boy Roy for Mental Health America, Colors 4 Hope 4 mi run/walk? Find a “Run 4 Hope” near you and come join the fun ,run through a Kaleidoscope of colors
www.MHA.org support Mental wellness. Our Greenville Chapter has a Facebook page with more information.

Some Mental Health Facts:

1 in 4 adults experience a mental health disorder in a given year.

1 in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness.

1 in 10 children lives with a serious mental or emotional disorder.

Major depressive disorder is the LEADING cause of disability in the US and Canada in ages 15-44.

one  half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.

Adults living with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than other Americans.

What is Good Boy Roy? A story of Hope, Faith, Determination and overcoming

People ask, so I am telling, what is Good Boy Roy?

A new Dog food??? No

A dog training program?? No

Millions of families and children live as we do…in a life and home ruled by mental illness. We know the feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and searching for answers. For us, that is our son, Zack, now 17. Zack IS Good Boy Roy, the business and the brand. We are sharing our story through the designs and characters of the Good Boy Roy line. It is more than fun t-shirts, it is more than cute characters.

It is about hope, faith, love, determination and overcoming.

Find your gift, follow your dream. Never loose Hope

 

 

NAMI Walk 2012

This years NAMI walk (National Alliance on Mental Illness) had huge turnout !! The weather was perfect and it was a perfect day. More than 1 thousand people turned out to support Mental Illness awareness and to help Stomp out Stigma. The Good Boy Roy Team had about 10 walkers this year, all walking in the new NAMI design by Zack…Mental Illness does NOT Discriminate . 

We entered the design into the National T-shirt contest for NAMI in hopes his will win, if so Zack will win $250 and have his design hanging in the National Headuarters. We will  keep our fingers crossed.

It was great seeing so many people come out and support this great cause.

Here are some pictures of our team and some great friends that came out to help and support us and others that live with and struggle with Mental Illness.

Good Boy Roy walk team 2012

Me, my husband and Zack

                      

                                                                           Zack and friend/supporter Ronnie

                We have some of these left, anyone interested in buying one you can order online.

Step by Step

We are making some changes here at Good Boy Roy headquarters !! Things we are excited about and think will make this brand even better.

Not only that, but the REAL Good Boy Roy, aka Zack is turning 17 on the 23rd of March. That, to me, is unbelievable.  He has come so far, worked very hard and continues to have enduring faith and hope.

     His dad and I, along with his grandparents, surprised him with a little truck for his birthday. I can’t believe how perfect it is for him !! Zack is not yet driving alone, he struggles so much with his nerves and anxiety, but little by little he is getting more comfortable behind the wheel. Why, you may ask, buy a kid a car if they can’t drive, alone. Well, both my husband and I have very large vehicles, which makes it difficult for Zack to feel comfortable driving, much less take the driving test in one of them. So, we thought if we could find something small, used, then he could begin to drive more, get more use to driving and take the test soon. Lets hope we are right.

     This little truck, a 2006 Chevrolet Colorado, looks like it was made for him. He was tickled to death when he saw it and can not believe it is his.

   On the Good Boy Roy business front. The past few weeks have been a flurry of meetings for me, really doing things I should have done in the beginning. Meetings with a counselor at the SBDC (Small Business Developement Center), SCORE, and a Business attorney and Trademark Attorney.

     We have decided from here on out to print all designs exclusively on Delta Apparel  shirts, that are 100% RingSpun cotton or 100% Pre-shrunk cotton along with printing our own personalized label inside each shirt.

 I cant wait to see the new designs coming out in this format. 

 The first will be Happy Harry.

Isn’t he a cutie??

And, for the girls, we are waiting on Chatty Cathy to come alive as well.

Another change in 2012, we are proud to announce, our continued support of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). In the past, Good Boy Roy has donated the proceeds from sales of the NAMI shirt to our local Greenville NAMI chapter. This has not resulted in the level of support we would like, so we now will donate 10% of ALL sales, ALL year long to NAMI. :)

Chances are you know someone who suffers with a mental illness, of some kind. Mental illness affects people of every age, race and ethnicity, there is NO discrimination . We, at Good Boy Roy, look forward to donating generously this year, and every year, to NAMI as they continue to provide research and support to people and families living with a Mental Illness.

     I have also been aggressivley seeking a Sales Rep for us, to help in the the goal of securing placement for the products in brick and mortar retailers, and trying to connect with buyers. Anyone out there interested? Give me a shout.

So, 2012, has new things, new ideas and anticipation.

Mental Illness is not Contagious. Knowledge is Power

 Mental Illness affects millions world-wide.

 It does not discriminate among race, sex, class.

     This is an issue close to my heart as I have lived the life for 16 yrs now of loving and caring for a child with severe mental/emotional/neuropsychiatric illness. It does not discriminate among race, sex, class.  It is a life consumed with doctors, therapist, counselor appointments, researching, crying, trips to the hospital when completely unstable.

      As a parent days are filled with steadfast prayer, hope, and reaching for anything that may help your child.  Just as with a medical illness, illnesses of the brain can be equally debilitating and devastating. These children do not wish to be as they are. They only want to feel and act like their “normal” peers, to fit in, to be accepted. Isn’t that we all want?

     Understandably when adults or other kids see a child misbehaving, out of control or behaving oddly they are usually judged as “bad”, “spoiled”, “weird”. When, in a lot of cases, this child simply CAN NOT control the actions or behaviors they are demonstrating. Please join our FaceBook CauseIntense Kids are not bad kids ~ Stomp out Stigma of Mental Illness.

 Mental Illness is NOT a choice. Mental illness is NOT contagious. Knowledge is Power

some of the GoodBoyRoy walk team with Zack

Our  Face Book Cause ,  Stomp out Stigma of Mental Illness is growing as awareness grows.  Each year NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) holds a large fundraiser and walk to raise money and awareness for research and families living with mental illness.  Below is a picture of myself, husband and daughter, at one of the first NAMI walks. notably Zack was absent. Our hearts heavy, this was because at the time he was so unstable we had no other choice but to put my sweet boy into the hospital. He as about 9 years old at the time.

Help to foster understanding, awareness and share this link and our desire to let others understand that

Mental Illness does not = dumb, stupid, weird, worthless, lazy, poor will power, “crazy”

Mental Illness is not a choice.

My soap Box:

     Patience, understanding, love, acceptance are gifts we all need from each other but they are specially important for children with disabilities, of any kind. It is difficult to ignore rude, hurtful comments, to be left out and laughed at. Unfortunately this is a common childhood occurrence, however on a more frequent and constant basis for children who are different. Children who are already fragile due to any kind of illness, disability or impairment are easy targets for those who are stronger and more confidant. Self esteem is something we all have whether it be high or low, and how we perceive ourselves, abilities and worth are all too often dependant on others.

     My hope is that we teach our children and ourselves to accept differences and embrace the individuality that we all have, to see beyond any physical, mental or emotional challenges. If you are a parent of a “high-spirited, intense child” as I am, academically, socially and emotionally challenged; you have most likely heard some of the same accusations I have from parents of “perfect ” children who do no wrong, who respond to their parents every command on queue, perfectly behaved and well-mannered, who excel in sports and academics.  My hope and prayer is that the people in general open their minds and come to realize that children like mine, and millions more ,who suffer with these illnesses, are not bad kids, not evil or purposefully oppositional, but are lovable, kind, funny, smart and full of promise as is every other child. Yes,they may do things differently, loudly, extremely,and outrageously, which may be difficult for others to understand or accept. This was the basis of my book that I wrote a few years ago for Zack, No one is Perfect and You are a great kid (Amazon) No one is Perfect and YOU are a Great Kid

     They need to be given understanding, reassurance, patience, acceptance and compassion. My wish is that other children who feel different for any reason find hope, promise, acceptance and the gift that is within them and realize they are not alone.

Mental illness is not a choice, it is not contagious, it does not make you “less than”

      I hope our story will open the lines of communication for parents and children, friends and neighbors to discuss and explore behavior they may not understand. My biggest hope is that children who are seeking acceptance,understanding and answers be able to find that from parents, peers, teachers and siblings and to know they are not alone in their challenges. This has been a life long struggle for us as a family and for my son Zack, now 16.

   Some days I  honestly never thought we would make it this far. Maybe I just thought some big hole would eventually swallow us up at some point when we felt we could not move forward one more day. Yet here we are, we have made it, not day by day, but minute by minute. And amazingly, presently, doing pretty good. We started this business for Zack,  Good Boy Roy, based on his fun characters that he draws. The start of this has brought him so much pride and hope, something we never thought he would have. So, I urge parents out there, who may love a child who struggles, to please encourage them in whatever there dream or hope may be, you never know when it may turn into THE thing that begins to transform their life and how they feel about themselves. Never give up.    

This year Zacks new design for the Good Boy Roy NAMI (National Alliance on Metnal Illness)  walk team won the National t-shirt design contest. This honor will allow his design to be displayed at the NAMI headqarters and he will get a monetary prize, which he LOVES !! Here we are at this years walk wearin the winning shirt. You can of course find and buy this shirt on the Good Boy Roy website. A percentage of sales are donated to NAMI to help Stomp out Stigma of Mental illness.

        

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