Barry Arrington, Virginia
Hometown: Bedford, Va.
Home Chapter: James River Chapter, Bedford, Va.
NWTF Member since: 1997
Virginia's Barry Arrington doesn't let a disability keep him out of the woods when turkeys are gobbling during spring.
NWTF: Barry, tell us a little about yourself.
Barry Arrington: I grew up on our family farm in central Virginia. After I graduated from high school in 1979, I worked full time on the farm. In the fall of 1994, my life changed drastically when I fell while putting up a tree stand and was paralyzed from the chest down. Although I spent six months in hospitals and physical rehabilitation centers during the following year, I never doubted I would return to the hunting world.
I enjoyed woodworking before my accident and was introduced afterward to computers and a graphics software program that allowed me to access my artistic side again. Since then, I have designed all the T-shirts for the James River Chapter's JAKES and Wheelin' Sportsmen outreach events, and logos for hats, banners, cups and bumper stickers. I also started writing and had articles published in several hunting magazines, including Turkey Call and Wheelin' Sportsmen.
I am a turkey-hunting fanatic! I am back in the outdoors hunting and have taken numerous big game animals while in my wheelchair. I also collect turkey calls and love to grow tomatoes.
NWTF: How did you get interested in the outdoors and turkey hunting?
BA: I grew up in a hunting family and have been obsessed with the outdoors since I was a kid. My father took me on my first turkey hunt when I was 12 years old. He shot a turkey on that hunt only because I could not get a good shot at it. During my late teenage years, my father's health was failing so a friend and I often turkey hunted together.
NWTF: Tell us about your involvement with the NWTF.
BA: In 1997, I attended my first NWTF banquet. I joined the James River Chapter's event committee in 1999 and became the JAKES outreach coordinator during my second year with the chapter. Within a few years, we had more than 200 youth attending our JAKES events. I have now coordinated 10 JAKES events.
I knew I wanted to be a part of the NWTF's Wheelin' Sportsmen program when it came along. I coordinated the James River Chapter's first Wheelin' Sportsmen spring turkey hunt in 2006 and have since coordinated five Wheelin' Sportsmen hunts.
I have been the James River Chapter president and banquet chairman for the past three years. Our chapter's membership has grown from 40 members to more than 130 members. Our committee has grown from seven members to a strong committee of more than 30 volunteers. The James River Chapter donated nearly 60 turkeys to families in need through the Turkey Hunters Care program last year. For the past two years, we have donated more than 400 coats to those in need through coat drives.
NWTF: Which NWTF outreach program do you feel is the most important?
BA: The JAKES outreach program is special to me because I love children and enjoy introducing them to the outdoors and passing on our outdoor traditions. "Children are our future" is an often-heard phrase that has never been more accurate than when we consider how future generations will accept our hunting heritage.
The Wheelin' Sportsmen outreach program is closest to my heart, however. Since I'm a hunter who uses a wheelchair, I understand the challenges other hunters with disabilities face. I overcame those obstacles with the help of my family and friends and believe my experience helps me to better organize Wheelin' Sportsmen events because I've been there and know how to prepare.
NWTF: How important is it for others to get involved in the outdoors and with the NWTF?
BA: It is very important, especially for younger generations. The James River Chapter promotes the outdoors as the ultimate recreation site for youth and encourages families to enjoy the outdoors together. We emphasize that the NWTF is about more than just hosting a banquet once a year. Sure, banquets are important, but the NWTF's outreach programs are just as important to us.
NWTF: What are people missing by not joining the NWTF?
BA: They miss experiencing the camaraderie, enjoying the fellowship, helping preserve our sport and giving back to their communities. Plus, there's never a dull moment when a bunch of turkey hunters get together!
NWTF: Barry, what has been your most memorable NWTF experience?
BA: There was a Vietnam veteran at a James River Chapter Wheelin' Sportsmen hunt who had lost both legs in a landmine explosion. When he took his first spring turkey at our hunt, he cried because he was so thankful for the opportunity we had given him. Moments like that touch my heart and let me know that what I am doing is well worth the effort. I am very proud of the James River Chapter, my committee and everything we do for our community.