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July 9, 2014

Rocky Brands makes Thompson’s wish come true

MILLEDGEVILLE — Incoming Baldwin High School junior Josh Thompson, 16, received a deserved break from cancer recovery courtesy of Make-A-Wish Georgia and Rocky Brands Inc. last weekend.

Thompson visited Rocky Brands’ Nelsonville, Ohio corporate headquarters to meet Georgia Boot designers and be part of a professional photo shoot.

Rocky Brands is an Ohio-based company and a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of premium quality footwear and apparel marketed under recognized brand names including Rocky, Georgia Boot, Durango, Lehigh, and the licensed brands Michelin and Mossy Oak.

An avid fan of Georgia Boot, Thompson has grown up idolizing the company’s quality product.

“The first good pair of boots I had were Georgia Boots,” he said. “I could basically wear them all day and not even have a problem. It got to the point where I didn’t like wearing tennis shoes because they didn’t feel right.”

Arriving on Thursday and departing on Saturday, Thompson spent two fun-filled days in Nelsonville learning about Rocky Brands and exploring the area.

Thompson modeled Georgia Boots at a local saw mill. Some of the pictures could end up in an upcoming brand catalog.

He also designed a custom boot model and went home with a treasure chest of products.

On Friday, Thompson and his family traveled to the Donna Rayburn’s Portsmouth Motor Speedway for the 2014 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event.

Before the race they met Georgia Boot/Clint Bowyer Racing driver Steve Francis and crew. Thompson became honorary member of Francis’ Georgia Boot No. 15 dirt late model team and got dirty with the pit experts.

Bowyer, a well-known NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, called the 16-year-old as well. Thompson said they talked about hunting among other mutual interests.

Together with Francis, Thompson addressed the race crowd, who answered with a standing ovation. Additionally, the Lucas Oil Late Model series put the family inside of the pace car prior to the race and took them around the track.

“All of the people were just so excited to see Josh,” mother Leigh said. “It was amazing. He hasn’t stopped grinning yet.”

Make-A-Wish Georgia grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions in all counties of the state of Georgia.

Wish Coordinator Alex McCollister said eligible participants must be between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 years old.

Children are referred to Make-A-Wish by a parent or legal guardian, themselves or their medical team.

“Then we get the ball rolling. We have Make-A-Wish volunteers go out and visit with the family to see what the child’s favorites are and of course see what they would like to wish for,” McCollister said. “Then we make it happen.”

The Georgia organization coordinated with Make-A-Wish Ohio to organize Thompson’s unique experience.

Rocky Brands laid out the red carpet, McCollister said.

“When we were contacted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation about Josh’s wish we were so moved that out of everything he could do in the world he wanted to come visit us,” said Jordan Gottke, marketing director for Rocky and Georgia Boot. “Our immediate answer was yes, but we also wanted to add onto Josh’s wish and do even more than he originally asked for.”

His mother said the trip was so far beyond what anyone expected.

“They were like family,” Leigh said. “They took us in. It was so much fun, and we had a blast.”

The youngster has already endured chemotherapy, radiation and several surgeries after being diagnosed with Stage 4 testicular cancer in February 2013. Hospital visits became regular part of life.

This wish granted offered a break.

“While on the wish, they don’t have to face the normal, everyday life. It’s a time away to be a family. It gives them an escape,” McCollister said. “It’s something to look forward to.”

Thompson is cancer-free to date and receives quarterly maintenance checkups for the next year and a half.

Recurrence is typically 5 percent for this type of cancer.

“We are trying to make sure we aren’t in that five percent,” Thompson’s mother said.

Thompson remains upbeat saying he’s never looked on the negative side of anything.

The teenager’s team now extends to Ohio.

“I’ve always had people praying for me and wishing me luck,” he said. “I wasn’t short on support.”

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