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Hilton Hotelier Bruce Thompson Rallies Community to
Build Oceanfront Park for the Disabled

Virginia Beach Park Is First Of Its Kind In The U.S

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – June 1, 2010 – When Hilton hotelier Bruce Thompson’s son Josh was struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, his family decided to turn Josh’s misfortune into a crusade to call attention to the disease and help others with ALS and other neuromuscular diseases.  The result was the JT Walk & Beach Party, which first launched in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2008, and has raised more than $3 million.  Proceeds from the walk support ALS patient services, stem cell research and the creation and maintenance of JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBODY, the first-ever oceanfront park for the disabled.

In attendance for the ribbon cutting included Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin (black polo, khaki shorts), Mayor Will Sessoms (blue t-shirt), Bruce Thompson (white shirt and black cap) and Governor Bob McDonnell (orange t-shirt and khaki pants).

Early in Josh’s battle with ALS, the Thompson family, who are avid beach-goers, was immediately struck by the difficulty of navigating the sand and other obstacles with Josh’s wheelchair.  At that moment, the idea was born to use a portion of the 2009 JT Walk proceeds to build and maintain an oceanfront park for people with disabilities.  On May 22, that idea became a reality with the grand opening of JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBODY.   
Early in Josh’s battle with ALS, the Thompson family, who are avid beach-goers, was immediately struck by the difficulty of
More than 1,000 people attended the park opening to demonstrate support for the efforts and enjoy the new beach access the park provides.  Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell officially opened and dedicated the park, along with other local officials. 
In thanking the individuals and businesses that helped build the park, Thompson, president and CEO of Gold Key PHR, Inc., which manages Hilton Oceanfront Virginia Beach, said, “Nobody should be deprived of a day at the beach.  Until my son Josh became ill, I hadn’t really thought about the many people who are unable to do that.  Many of us take the beach and all it has to offer for granted.  When I originally discussed the park idea with Josh, he was very excited about all the people the park will serve and give access to the beach.  Now, he can see that it is a reality.”
The name for the park is a combination of Josh Thompson’s initials and the term “grommet,” which is slang for a young surfer.  The “EveryBODY” portion of the name is an indication that the park is for anyone who wants to be near the oceanfront regardless of their physical condition.  Among the key features are handicapped-accessible play structures, special wheelchairs for the sand, soft play sculptures, shaded and non-shaded seating, decks and safe play surfaces.  The park also features an original bronze commissioned sculpture of two grommets, which represent Josh and his younger brother Chris Thompson.
On Friday evening, prior the official opening of the park, more than $400,000 in grants for the continuation of stem cell research was awarded to a select group of leading scientists and researchers.  Grants were made possible by the JT Walk & Beach Party efforts.
The 2008 JT Walk & Beach Party brought 5,000 participants from all walks of life together as one to fight against ALS, raising $1 million.  In 2009, support grew with more than 9,000 people joining the Walk To Defeat ALS™, raising $2 million, making the JT Walks the largest in the U.S. two years in a row.  The 2010 JT Walk & Beach Party is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 3.  Information will be provided and updated via
About Gold Key/PHR
Gold Key/PHR Hotel and Resorts is the Virginia Beach oceanfront’s number one employer with up to 2,000 associates in season.  The company owns and operates seven properties in the Mid-Atlantic region and oversees approximately 1,700 rooms.  The integrated hospitality firm owns and/or manages hotels, vacation ownership resorts and leading area restaurants including Mahi Mah’s and more recently, Catch 31 and Salacia. Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts is an Equal Opportunity Employer.  Visit us at


Southard Nowak

Also See: Short on Workers Gold Key/PHR Hotels & Resorts Travels to Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine to Find 250 Foreign College Students for Summer Employment at its Seven Beachfront Hotels in Virginia Beach, Virginia / June 2008

Verdell Ekberg Named Director of Sales and Marketing for the Upcoming 295-room Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront / October 2003

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