Live Like Josh: Waldreps Keep Son’s Memory Alive Through Scholarships

Julie Lineback

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

The parents of a University of West Georgia employee are commemorating their late son by giving back to the university and community he loved.

Following the passing of Josh Waldrep last fall, donors P.T. ’93 and Karen Waldrep created the Josh Waldrep Foundation to honor their son, who the couple described as “an optimistic, happy kid with a big smile.”

“Josh had health challenges most of his life, so he had every reason in the world to be discouraged,” Karen explained. “But he never looked at the negativity of the situation. He always found something to be grateful for despite his struggles.” 

Diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) at age 6, which is similar to a migraine disorder but characterized by stomach pain and nausea, Karen homeschooled Josh from second to eighth grades and he returned to Carrollton High School (CHS) his freshman year. Josh was an avid horseman, and he was extremely loyal to his sports teams – particularly the Carrollton Trojans, Georgia Bulldogs and UWG Wolves, his dad’s alma mater.

Josh’s loyalty to his teams was reciprocated in many ways. Most recently, the CHS baseball team hosted a Josh Waldrep Day and honored him with a permanent plaque affixed to the Trojan dugout that reads, “A loyal Trojan and 2018 alum whose devotion to Carrollton Baseball went beyond the love of the game to become a dedicated ambassador for the entire program.” 

“Even though he couldn’t play sports due to muscle weakness and fatigue, he would find a way to participate by being the biggest fan, volunteering and paving his own way,” Karen said. “He worked really hard to make up for anything he missed, and he’d bounce right back.”

While enrolled at CHS and under the direction of Kristi Simpson, Josh became involved in Project SEARCH, a partnership between CHS, UWG, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, and several local businesses that give students opportunities to develop their workplace skills while continuing their education. He was part of the first cohort and completed the program in 2018. 

That’s how he met Trent Ross, his first supervisor and former director of the UWG Coliseum, where Josh immediately transitioned following graduation.

“Josh’s biggest obstacles were his health issues because it’s hard to hold a job when you’re out sick for a few days every couple of weeks,” P.T. explained. “The school and administration were very understanding. Everytime we saw Trent, we’d say how appreciative we were of them working with Josh, and he would respond by saying what an asset Josh was to the team. I didn’t fully understand or appreciate that until Josh was gone.”

Ross said Josh was one of the hardest working employees he’s ever encountered.

“Josh brought a great attitude to work every day,” Ross shared. “He often completed behind-the-scenes duties that made events safe and enjoyable for visitors. He loved talking sports and fit in perfectly with our professional staff and student team. We developed a strong friendship, and I miss him every day.”

Josh served UWG for nearly five years in The Coliseum and the athletics department, where P.T. and Karen said he was very much in his element.

“He had quite the network,” beamed P.T., who also serves on the UWG Athletic Foundation Board of Directors. “Josh wasn’t shy and connected well with people in the sports world, which resulted in unique bonds with his employers and colleagues. The most important thing I can say about his relationship with the university is how much he truly loved his job and how much the people loved him.”

Known for having a kind heart and impacting everyone he met, his parents wanted to ensure his memory would last forever. They created the Josh Waldrep Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring their son and raising awareness about CVS. The Waldreps also created a memorial scholarship – which was awarded to two UWG students earlier this year – to assist the athletic events and facility student employees as they pursue their education at UWG. The foundation is in the process of creating an annual scholarship for a CHS student,  the first of which will be presented next year in Josh’s honor.

On April 20, the foundation hosted a Live Like Josh 5K, named for Josh’s zest for life. P.T. and Karen said they were overwhelmed with the results.

“We were hoping for around 80 people for the inaugural run, and we had nearly 400 people attend,” Karen shared. “We had an initial goal of $5,000 on our website, and almost $45,000 was raised. We hope to increase that amount next year.”

The funds raised will go toward the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association and to endowing the scholarships in perpetuity. 

“Josh would’ve been thrilled with how many people attended,” P.T. concluded. “He was such a big presence and made the most of life. We can all learn to live like Josh, getting back in the saddle with a smile on our faces.”

For more information about how you can make an impact by supporting UWG through an endowment, scholarship or annual giving, please visit UWG’s Give West page.