A couple of weeks ago Lisa and I went on a date to a fundraising dinner for an organization called Hoops of Hope, I was grossly outbid on a mission trip to Africa that Lisa desperately wanted to go on. I hung in there until 5k, but couldn’t come up with the 10k or so that I think it ended up going for. But we did walk away with a soccer ball that a boy in Uganda made by hand from some banana leaves. More than that, we walked away inspired by the courage and faith of a young man that is literally changing the world. The following is his story.
Austin Gutwein is changing the lives of AIDS-orphaned kids, one shot at a time. Who says that a 9-year-old boy can’t influence the world in a big way? The East Valley’s Austin Gutwein asked himself the same question about 6 years ago. His conclusion? He used his favorite sport, basketball, and his desire to help people to impact the world in a huge way. In Austin’s book, “Take Your Best Shot,” he explains, “Doing something new that’s bigger than yourself doesn’t depend on how old you are, it depends on how available you are.”
In the spring of 2004, Austin Gutwein saw a video that told the story of children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Austin states, “I didn’t know what AIDS was at the time but I just knew I couldn’t imagine living life without my parents. So I decided to do something about it.” Austin felt God calling him to do make a difference so he decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during a normal day that he would have at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, World Vision used his donation to provide hope to 8 orphaned children.
Since that first year the vision has grown into a much larger one. Today students all over the world are shooting hoops for AIDS orphans. The money has gone to build two AIDS clinics, a high school, and provide 1,000 caregivers with bikes. Currently Hoops of Hope is working on building 4 dorms at the Jonathan Sim Legacy School (built by Hoops of Hope in 2007). It is the only high school within 70 miles and as a result of the extreme distances kids are walking to school they’ve had to sleep in the classrooms. Austin adds, “These kids are making education a priority because they know it is the way to help their community thrive. We want to make sure that they have a place to lay their heads.”
When asked what Hoops of Hope’s plans for the future are Austin replied, “We don’t plan as much as one would think. Sometimes I think our plans just limit what God can do. Each year, we just pray about what God wants us to do and then try to do it.” The group’s goal for 2010 is to do a tour of 12 cities and to shoot 15 million free throws to represent the 15 million children orphaned by AIDS. The money raised will go to 12 villages.
Austin was just awarded the Caring Institute 2009 Caring Award, he is currently speaking on the Revolve Tour and has been on a book signing tour with his new book “Take Your Best Shot.” Pretty amazing for a young man of only 15 years of age to have such an influence isn’t it? What drives Austin? “It has definitely been God. In the Bible Jesus didn’t just say for us to care for the orphans and the widows, He did it. Jesus set the perfect example for us and I want to follow that and live a life honoring to Him.” “Believe me, it makes no difference that you are young or that you are not a superstar. The fact is that God wants to use you, but sometimes that means you might have to stare a giant in the eye.”
You might remember that a couple of years ago the NCAA got a hold of Austin’s story and aired it during March Madness. I’ve posted those videos, narrated by Ashley Judd, below for you to see for yourself how the Lord is using Austin and Hoops of Hope to change the world. If you let Him, you just might be surprised at what God could do through you.
A big thanks to Austin Gutwein, Hoops of Hope, and the Cornerstone Creative Arts Team for their help on this post!
Posted in Spiritual Formation