TUCSON, Ariz.— The Muscular Dystrophy Association has named Thomas Arrington III of Chesapeake, Va., the recipient of its Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award for 2011.
The award will be announced Sept. 6 during the national broadcast of the 2010 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Arrington will receive his award during the local broadcast of the Telethon on WAVY-TV Channel 10 in Norfolk.
Arrington, 47, was chosen for the honor from among scores of recipients of statewide PAA awards, based on his personal success and achievements, and his dedication to helping others with disabilities.
About the Personal Achievement Award
Initiated in 1992, the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award (PAA) recognizes the exemplary accomplishments and community service of people who have any of the 40-plus neuromuscular diseases for which MDA seeks treatments and cures.
It is named in honor of Robert Ross, MDA’s longtime chief executive, who died in June 2006. Ross created the PAA to demonstrate to the public that disability is no obstacle to achievement.
About Thomas Arrington III
After having been an enthusiastic baseball, basketball and football player for most of his life, Arrington learned at age 26 that he has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) when its symptoms began making him fall. FSHD also affected his father, although not until he was 48.
FSHD initially causes weakness and atrophy of the muscles around the eyes and mouth, and of the shoulders, upper arms and lower legs, with later weakness of abdominal muscles and sometimes hip muscles. Arrington now relies on a power wheelchair for mobility. When FSHD made it impossible to use his right hand, he taught himself to write with his left.
Arrington worked for 23 years with the natural gas industry in New York, retiring in 2002 as manager of gas distribution systems for most of the New York City and Long Island areas.
In 2008, he founded and became CEO of Atlantic Wind Energy, a company that promotes the use of renewal forms of energy. In 2010, he was named president of Tidewater Biodiesel, which will produce fuel from waste vegetable oil.
After moving with his family to Virginia because New York’s cold winters exacerbated the effects of FSHD, Arrington devoted himself to helping others. He was appointed to the Mayor’s Council on Disabilities in Chesapeake and became involved with Chesapeake fire fighters’ Fill the Boot campaign to raise money for MDA’s research and services programs.
Arrington said Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff had not previously participated “hands on” in disability awareness activities. “I wanted to change that, and he was very amenable to the change,” Arrington said. Now Krasnoff is involved with MDA activities, including letting himself “go to jail for good,” in an MDA Lock-Up fundraiser.
Arrington is an outspoken advocate for accessible public buildings and public transportation, and is helping to raise funds to build a therapeutic recreation center for people with disabilities. He often is asked to speak about issues such as National Disability Awareness Month.
Arrington said he has continued to work past retirement in behalf of others with disabilities because “I want to show others that, whatever your physical disability, if you have the fortitude, if you have a smile on your face, that’s all you need to effect positive change in society.”
The father of a 3-year-old son, Arrington said he has been doing “daddy day care” at home, where he also operates his business. He gratefully acknowledges the help of his wife, Sandra, who works full time for the federal government, but also serves as her husband’s caregiver. Arrington said she “showers me, dresses me and ties my ties” for his public appearances.
“It’s a special honor for MDA to present the 2011 Robert Ross National Personal Achievement Award to Thomas Arrington,” said MDA President & CEO Gerald C. Weinberg. “In both his professional and personal endeavors he has inspired others with muscle diseases to persevere and strive not only for personal excellence, but also for the well-being and rights of others with disabilities.”
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.