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.”

Do you have a Kidpreneur destined to be an Entrepreneur?

Do you have a Kidpreneur destined to be an Entrepreneur?

I did.

I just didn’t know it.

Yet.

We kind of fell into it.

If you do, then you need to keep up with Sarah Cook and Raising CEO Kids. She is full of good tips, information and ideas.ceokids

The following interview of my Zack, creator of Good Boy Roy,was posted on her site and we are sharing it again for our new followers.

Spotlight on CEO Kid: Zack Hix of Good Boy Roy

By on January 13, 2011in CEO Kids in Spotlight, The Feature
Sarah:  Please tell me how you got started (your STORY) and where CEO Kids  and parents can find out more info about you.
Zack: I have always loved to draw and make  characters. Mom decided to surpirse me and had one of my characters put  on a shirt for me, I wore it and people liked it and wanted to know  where I got my shirt. When I told them it was my design they thought it  was cool. So we started talking, had the idea to put more of my  characters on shirts and see what happened, so there is a whole gang on  the shirts now.
People can find me on u can find me on Facebook, Twitter and our website: www.goodboyroy.com
Sarah:  When did you start thinking about starting your own  business and becoming an entrepreneur and why did you want to start?
Zack: I really did not think about  starting a business, it just kind of happened. I wanted to do this to  see if it went anywhere, to see what what we could make of Good Boy Roy.  My goal is for Good Boy Roy is to become a tv series one day.
Sarah:  Where did you  come up with your idea and what investigation did you do to help you  know that this would be a great business?
Zack: I just think of all the characters in my head, I always make new  characters and draw them. It’s something I have always done.
Sarah:  What do  you think are the most important skills you have that help you in  business?
Zack: You definitely need creativity and a good imagination.
Sarah:  What were  the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?
Zach: Getting people to know who Good Boy Roy is and having them believe that I actually draw and  create all the characters.

Sarah:  How old were you when you started  and how old are you now?  How does your age affect your business  success?

Zack: I was 14, we started in January of 2010, I am now 15.

Sarah:  What about  college?  Are you planning on going?

Zack: I want to pursue a career in  cartooning, to help me in the business. I would like to go to a college  to help me learn more about drawing and cartooning. I hope Good Boy Roy  will be my business and be a huge success, but if for some reason it is not I  would like to get a job with Cartoon Network on Nickelodeon.
Sarah:  What kind of  expenses or start-up costs did you have when you started your business  and where did you find the money or capital to start? 
Zack: Most of the  expeses are to have the shirts printed, my parents are the bank and fund  the business since I am a minor.

 

Sarah:  What have been the best surprises that you  found in starting your business?

 

Zack: I love that people love my designs, they think  they are cool and neat that a kid draws them.  I love seeing my  characters in color on t-shirts and people wearing them, they come to  life from the paper to the shirt andits cool.

 

Sarah:  What ideas  and approaches do you use to market your business and what do you find  works best for you in getting the word out about who you are and what  you are doing?

 

Zack: Our website (launching new one in Dec 20112) My mom does a lot on Twitter and  some on Facebook.  We do some festivals and craft Bazaars, and I wear my  shirts to school. People see them and ask to buy them that way too.

 

Sarah:  How do you balance it all?  Do you find that you still have time to be  a kid?

 

Zack: Yes, its easy for me. The drawing is not work, but can be  frustrating for me sometimes, espeically when I cant get a picture the  way I want it. I have plenty of time to hang out with my friends and do  stuff with my Church like I enjoy doing.

 

Sarah:  What is the  best advice or tips you would like to share with young entrepreneurs?

 

Zack: If  you work hard enough then your dreams can come true. Keep faith, hope  and believe in yourself.
PS. Zack just completed illustrations for his first Children’s book, being published by L’Edge Publishing, titled A World Without Circles, out in December 2012.

 

In case you missed it… Boy Wonder

By Heidi Coryell Williams
SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

Hillcrest High School junior Zack Hix, creator of Good Boy Roy, draws on real-life inspiration

In his Simpsonville art studio, also known as the kitchen table, 16-year-old Zack Hix sits among stacks of well-worn sketch diaries, which his mother buys from Walmart. He seems subdued and focused, even though he is running a little late today—the baseball coach had a meeting after school. He is trying out for the team.

This is Zack’s life of late—juggling school and home life and a dynamic graphic design business, which includes stocking a Web store full of merchandise bearing his catchy gang of cartoon characters and their animated, adolescent expressions—from “Rock on Dude” to “Must Have Ice Cream.”

Web sales aren’t great, says Kim, his mother and Chief “Everything” Officer of Zack’s design company, Good Boy Roy. The good news is, his work has recently taken him in a new direction: creating custom designs. In the past few months, he’s drawn logos for a Zumba teacher in Oklahoma, a marching band in Chicago, and a beauty salon (Salon Beverly)  in Greer. (Check out the Custom Design Page)

Custom design for Salon Beverly

If Zack’s accomplishments seem to belie his age, the adversity he has endured downright defies it. “Nobody can have it worse than anybody else. It’s just a matter of how you look at it,” Zack says, slightly monotone, eyes diverted—as they often are—his hand firmly tapping the seat of his wooden chair.

In a few years, folks will likely chalk up his mannerisms to artistic eccentricities. But the tapping, knocking, and pacing actually stem from various impulse control disorders, including Tourette’s Syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity.

The truth is, the happy, vibrant characters that Zack creates are more like alter egos. He is content for now, but with little warning he could fly into a screaming rage or an anxious, tearful fit that might last for hours.

Zack’s differences have made him a target for bullying. But drawing has always offered an opportunity for escape and reconciliation, especially following some of his more violent outbursts. He often told his family, “I really am a good boy,” after an episode had ended, and the name Good Boy Roy was born.

About two years ago, Kim surprised Zack by putting one of the characters, Good Boy Roy, on a T-shirt. The gratification he got—not only seeing one of his sketches brought to life, but also from folks who saw and admired his work—turned out to be the beginning of the most healing season in his adolescence. At times, perfecting his drawings becomes something to obsess over, but mostly it’s an outlet for his anxiety. “It’s just helped me to cope sometimes,” Zack offers simply.