Mental Illness T-Shirt Business
A special family in the Upstate has turned their son's struggles into a unique business called Good Boy Roy.
Zack Hix, a student at Hillcrest High School in Simpsonville, has a variety of mental disorders that have created difficulties for him both at home and in school.
"His main diagnosis is Intermittent Explosive Disorder," says his mom, Kim Hix. "He also has very severe OCD. And in the 5th grade he got a strep infection which brought out tics and Tourettes, that's called PANDAS, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections."
Zack has suffered from fits of rage and difficulty understanding the consequences of his actions since he was an infant. A few concussions while he was riding bikes in middle school seemed to make the conditions worse.
But Zack is a talented artist, and both his mother and a teaching specialist in middle school realized it was a soothing method to calm him down. He began to draw and create characters with different identities, and one day a few years ago his mom surprised him by printing one onto a t-shirt. Zack wore it for days...and a business idea was born.
The website--GoodBoyRoy.com--has t-shirts, mugs, coloring books, and all with characters created by Zack. Last year, Kim says Zack's t-shirt design won the nationwide contest for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"My dreams are huge, but I'm a big dreamer," says Kim. "I see it as 'The Simpsons' meets 'Life is Good'. I think Good Boy Roy products can be on everything, because he has tons of characters with a positive message."
Zack stresses the positivity of his characters. Some stress his faith, and other just his desire for an upbeat message. Zack was often bullied as a kid in school by other children who didn't understand his condition.
"This is Rocker Rick. Even though he's a rocker, he's not disrespectful or rude, so he's got the same good attitude with all the other characters [because] I don't like negativity. I like always being nice and kind."
Zack says the name of the business comes from his first character, Roy, and something he used to tell his mom after calming down from his fits of rage as a child.
"I would tell my mom I am a good boy and that's true. Even if I do something wrong I still really am a good boy," says Zack.
The business doesn't turn a profit yet, but Kim hopes it can someday be a way for Zack to support himself, since he may not fit into a typical 9-to-5 work environment.
"Just let it be enough so he can support himself," says Kim. "But I would like it to be a big full business so we can help other people. There are so many people like Zack, and so many people in need in the world. That would be the best thing."