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."