WHY WE WILL KEEP ON WALKING
Josh Thompson was a fun-loving surfer, husband and father of two sons when he was diagnosed with ALS. Josh was a fighter, so he began his courageous 13-year battle with the disease, inspiring thousands to join him to find a cure and assist other victims of ALS. Through the annual JTWalk, Josh’s friends and family achieved extraordinary results, donating millions to ALS research while also making Virginia Beach more accessible to wounded warriors and kids with disabilities.
Josh lost his battle with ALS on October 29, 2020. But his spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of thousands who will never stop walking for him.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE SEA
Before Josh was diagnosed with ALS, he could envision himself riding the waves for years to come. He looked forward to decades of enjoying the beach with his family and friends. The warm sand and salt spray were his inspiration and they permeated his soul. But ALS changed all that for Josh at a very young age. His life became one of frustration. Frustration with lack of a cure; barriers to drug access; difficulty in communicating. But Josh and his family never let their frustration turn to bitterness. They channelled it into a massive mobilization for a search for a treatment; a search for a cure; a miracle.
THE VIRGINIA GENTLEMEN FOUNDATION
In 2007, a group of young men who had grown up together in Virginia Beach wanted to find a way to give something back to the community that had given them so much. So, they formed the Virginia Gentlemen, a non-profit organization destined to make life better for many people. When founding member Chris Thompson received news that his brother was diagnosed with ALS, the Virginia Gentlemen made Josh’s ALS fight their fight.
THE WALK TO STOMP OUT ALS
The Virginia Gentlemen launched their first initiative with the local ALSA chapter called The Keys To Life Program, which helped ALS patients with transportation to and from medical appointments. From there their involvement grew. In 2008, they partnered with ALSA in the local Walk. Previously held at The Botanical Gardens, the walk was moved to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in order to accommodate anticipated larger numbers of walkers.
From a single team in the annual Hampton Roads ALS Walk their efforts expanded to become the largest single day Walk and fundraiser. They have since raised millions for ALS research and patient services, as well as major community projects including JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBODY; the Grombulance, a kid-friendly medical transport for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters; and development of JT’s Camp Grom.