Huntington entrepreneur John Cronin, 22, became former President George H.W. Bush's "sock pen pal" as the two bonded over their love of colorful socks.
Cronin, who has Down syndrome and sells socks through his company, John's Crazy Socks, first connected with Bush in the spring of 2017, Cronin's father and company co-founder, Mark Cronin, said Monday.
"We had just read an article about President Bush's love for crazy socks," he said. "John said, 'Why don't we write him a letter and send him some socks?' We did, and it all kind of snowballed from there."
Bush sent a thank-you letter to John.
And "not only did he wear John's socks, he sent John some USO socks," Mark Cronin said. "John then sent him a pair of Down syndrome superhero socks, which he actually wore earlier this year on March 21 for World Down Syndrome Day." Bush tweeted a photo of himself in the socks.
It's like they were sock pen pals, Mark Cronin said.
When Barbara Bush, the former president's wife of more than 70 years, died in April, Bush’s office contacted the company, requesting a pair of socks covered in books. Bush wanted to wear them in tribute to his wife's commitment to literacy, Mark Cronin said.
They rush-delivered a pair to Bush’s Houston office in time for the funeral.
"When the president tweeted the photo of himself wearing the Down syndrome superhero socks, we noticed a bump in sales," Mark Cronin said.
"But when he wore the socks to the funeral, that was huge. It was a very big deal for us because it resulted in television appearances and a surge of new customers. It had a profound impact for our company."
Soon after, the father-son duo put the book-themed socks for sale on their website, donating $2 of every pair sold to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The socks are a bestseller, raising nearly $13,000 for the foundation so far, Carol Cronin, John's mother, said.
The company, which projects revenue of $5 million for 2018, regularly donates 5 percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics. This year it raised more than $200,000 for the nonprofit.
Sales of specialty socks like the book socks help the business raise money for other charities.
The company will release $10 tribute socks honoring Bush on Wednesday.
"We'll be donating $2 of every pair sold to Barbara's foundation too," Mark Cronin said. "I mean this was the president who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. He was a special man, and he and my son ... shared a very special connection."
Cronin and his father will travel to Washington, D.C., Tuesday to pay their respects to John's crazy-sock-loving pal.
"I was very happy that he wore my socks," John Cronin said of Bush. "I'm gonna miss my friend."