Sometimes the best projects come straight from life experiences. Such was the case for Hilton Hotelier Bruce Thompson, whose son Josh was stricken at the age of 34 with myotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." Josh, who was confined to a wheelchair, found himself unable to access the beach, so the elder Thompson, who owns and operates seven Virginia Beach properties, decided to do something about it.
The idea for a wheelchair-accessible park was born and on May 22, 2010, the country’s first 100 percent handicap-accessible oceanfront park opened in Virginia Beach. It is 15,000 square feet and features recreational structures accessible for both disabled and able-bodied individuals, including soft play structures, ramps, rubberized surfaces, and shaded seating.
The name for the park, JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBODY, is a combination of Josh Thompson’s initials and the term “grommet,” which is slang for a young surfer. Not only does Thompson hope groups will take advantage of the park for CSR and teambuilding activities, but is ready to help others open them in other locations throughout the country.