St. Joseph student balances his love of archery with his passion for helping community
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At 2 years old, most kids are playing with toys, learning how to talk and graduating from sippy cups to drinking out of an adult cup. Hunter Barthels was learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.
At the age of 3, he won his first state championship belt buckle and since then, he's been collecting prizes and trophies at a steady pace.
Hunter, a 17-year-old junior at St. Joseph High School, has been an avid archer since he was old enough to pull the string back on his bow.
His dad, Russell Barthels, was a competitive archer as a child and naturally passed the hobby on to Hunter and his daughter, Heather Barthels, 14.
At the age of 5, Hunter was learning his ABCs and volunteering alongside his mother, Brandi Barthels.
"I tell (my kids) that you've got to give back to the community. It's something my mom taught me and something I am teaching them," she said.
During the school year, Hunter volunteers his time and muscle to help groups and organizations in the Victoria area, including the Golden Crescent Habitat For Humanity, Texas Zoo and the 4-H Club.
More recently, he started working with Habitat for Humanity when his mom started working with the nonprofit group three years ago.
He completes a variety of duties, from office tasks to building obstacles for the Habitat for Humanity's Sweat Equity Challenge. He's also helped build and paint structures at the Texas Zoo.
"I don't consider it work, because work is something you're getting paid for. I like helping people in the community," he said.
He also has worked at Devereux Gardens and has helped collect donations for the Toys for Tots charity drive.
Over the past two years, he has completed more than 500 hours of volunteer work, all while juggling the demands of school and his love of archery.
Between school, volunteering and his favorite pastime, he said finding the balance can be difficult.
"Archery is No. 1 in my life," he said, adding that his typical routine is school, then archery afterward and volunteering over the weekend.
More than a decade after earning his first belt buckle, Hunter experienced a new first in his life: representing the U.S. Team in the 2012 World Archery Field Championships. He was one of 36 athletes competing from the United States and one of 12 from the South Texas Archery Junior Olympic Archery Development Club with Straight Arrow Archery Learning Center.
In August, Hunter and his family spent time in Val D'Isere, France, while he competed in the 2012 World Archery Field Championships.
He tried for the championship last year when it was held in Hungary, but missed it by a few points.
Hunter placed eighth from a field pf almost 300 archers. The championship hosted competitors from 36 countries.
Almost immediately after they returned to Victoria, Hunter picked up his bow to teach students safety in bow hunting during the Hunter Education and Expo event at Dow Seadrift Operations at the end of August.
As a licensed instructor through U.S.A. Archery, which is the governing body of all archery programs, he was a volunteer instructor for the first-time event with more than 70 students.
During the two-day program, students participated in firearm safety, skills trail, wildlife identification and ethics. Hunter was in charge of teaching students how to hunt safely by practicing what they were taught during the program.
When he's not practicing for an archery competition, hitting the books or volunteering his time in the community, he might be out bow hunting in the Golden Crescent. After all, it's one of the reasons he started shooting a bow and arrow in the first place.