People to watch in 2023 include advocate, author, designer

People to watch in 2023 include advocate, author, designer
April Wallace

Editor’s Note: Every year, the Free Weekly staff suggests a few people you might want to keep your eye on in the year to come. This year, April Wallace, our Profiles editor, selected these three.

Sean Kent

Ozark Adaptive Sports Association

Sean Kent started the Ozark Adaptive Sports Association in the spring of 2021 to give other people with physical disabilities the opportunity to try equipment that’s often exorbitantly priced and not covered by insurance.

So far, OZASA meets every Wednesday for group sports like wheelchair rugby and basketball, and once a month, on the third Saturday, they go hand cycling together in cooperation with Achilles International Running Group. Achilles initially focused on fitness opportunities for people with developmental disabilities but has since branched out to include those with physical disabilities.

Since forming the group, Kent helped secure 10 sports wheelchairs and 10 hand cycles, and any funding raised by OZASA goes toward additional equipment.

Members have inquired about wheelchair dance, archery and ways to fish and hunt; kids’ wheelchair basketball to make them eligible for scholarships; and wakeboarding, kayaking or otherwise being on the lake.

“There are 28 Paralympic certified sports, and we’re trying to hit all of those,” he says.

Ultimately, his goal is that interest will snowball enough to build an adaptive sports center in the area. The plans have already been drawn up by Core Architects, who crafted a pro bono design for the facility. With 60,000 or 70,000 square feet, he envisions a track, a pool, rec rooms, a dance studio and all sorts of activities.

Bryce Arroyos

Springdale fashion designer

In 2022, Bryce Arroyos made his debut as a fashion designer at NWA Fashion Week when 10 of his looks graced the catwalk at The Momentary in Bentonville.

Two weeks beforehand he did an activation exhibit “Waste Garden,” also at the Momentary, on which he collaborated with his sister. It showed the work Arroyos puts in to creating garments. Everything that Arroyos uses is repurposed, so that process involves digging through bins of used items. The activation was intended to aid others’ thinking about fashion by pointing to the impact that the fashion industry has on nature and the environment.

Arroyos graduated from the University of Arkansas not long ago with a degree in apparel, but only in the past year did he grow confident that he wanted to continue to pursue a career in it. During the pandemic, he turned to YouTube tutorials and started making clothes that he describes as “hippie cowboy,” a sort of cross between western wear with hippie elements.

Arroyos said in 2022 that he had hopes of hosting a local creative festival to show what all Arkansas has to offer. He was only in the beginning stages of that collaboration at the time.

LaDonna Humphrey

‘The Girl I Never Knew’

There’s one unsolved homicide case that has stuck with River Valley detectives for nearly 30 years. In 1994, 19-year-old Melissa Witt went missing from the parking lot of Bowling World after an ordinary day of school and work. Six weeks later, her body was found in the Ozarks. To this day, the person who abducted and murdered her has not been identified or brought to justice.

LaDonna Humphrey hopes to revive interest in the decades-old case with her book “The Girl I Never Knew.” Released April 8, 2022, the book includes more details of Witt’s case than were made public at the time, but not so much as to impede further progress on it, since it’s still an open investigation for the Fort Smith Police Department.

“The Girl I Never Knew” has remained No. 10 on Amazon’s list of top 100 books on Kindle and in paperback since its release eight months ago. The proceeds generated from book sales are going directly back to funding things designed to help solve the case, including billboards and a hotline for people to relay tips related to Melissa — anything they may have seen or known about her life and situation at the time.

On Oct. 26, Humphrey and co-author Alecia Lockhart released “Strangled,” the sequel to “The Girl I Never Knew” that exposes information about the death fetish community. The two also host the podcast “Deep Dark Secrets” on the same topic.

Humphrey has a contract to publish four books in 2023 — “Passionate Justice,” “Married to the Cold Case,” “True Crime Advocates” and “Hypnotized,” the third book in the Melissa Witt series.

She is also the cofounder of True Crime Fest NWA, an event bringing nationally renowned true crime authors, podcasters and advocates to highlight cold cases and share stories of the missing and unidentified. It will take place at the Rogers Convention Center on May 20, 2023.

Categories: In The News