Austin Gutwein - A 9 Year Old Who Stepped Up

At the age of nine, Austin Gutwein was moved when he learned about something. Austin then USED HIS WILL TO DO something about it.

Many times I think our expectations on our young people are way too low ... "they are only 18, they are just kids" ... we accept and in a way endorse immature behavior from young men and women. 

Austin is a great example for us. He was 9 when he began to do something big for others. He wasn't 30 ... he was 9 ... and now at 16 he is still full-speed ahead.

Why Austin and not our players, our kids? Why was Austin mature enough to act in such a way - at age 9?

Let's tell our kids, our players and coaches about Austin - encouraging them that they CAN DO things to serve others, they are not too young.

Get into your small mentor groups and talk about Austin and his story ... maybe one of your players will step up. If a 9 year old can do it ...

Virtue = Strength, Lou
In the spring of 2004, I watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS.  After watching the video, I realized these kids weren't any different from me except they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them.

I decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during my day at school. People sponsored me and we were able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used to provide hope to 8 orphan children.

From that year forward, thousands of people have joined me in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $2.3 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school, dormitories, a computer lab, two medical centers and the list goes on.

I believe anyone, no matter what their age or skill, can make a difference.

I hope you'll join us by participating or sponsoring a participant. It's an awesome event that will leave an impact not only on the lives of the kids we're helping, but on yours as well.

In Him,

Now, in its sixth year, Austin’s basketball marathon – Hoops of Hope â€“ has spread around the world. Austin’s passion has motivated tens of thousands of kids, teens, and adults to make a difference. Austin and Hoops of Hope have raised over $2,000,000 for orphaned children in Africa. 

Since 2004, Hoops of Hope has helped build 2 medical clinics and a high school serving 1,000 children in rural Zambia, 2 Hope Centers in Swaziland, and built a water project in Kenya. 

They have provided hundreds of bicycles and supplied medical clinics with more than 1,000 medical caregiver kits to assist HIV/AIDS infected parents with the basic supplies they need to live longer so they can provide for their children. 

The money Austin’s organization has raised has kept thousands of children in Africa from becoming orphans. Hoops of Hope is currently building a second school in India, and this year will provide 1,000 filled backpacks for students at the high school in Zambia.

Since founding Hoops of Hope, Austin has been awarded the Prudential Spirit of Community Service Award, the Baron Prize for Young Heroes, the Build-a- Bear Huggable Heroes Award, and this past Fall was selected as one of the top 10 most caring Americans by the Caring Institute for his work on behalf of AIDS orphans. Austin has been featured in magazines as well as in the national broadcast and electronic news, including CBS Sports' NCAA Pregame Coverage, NBC's Today Show, the NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, Time for Kids, and Christianity Today.

In September of 2009, Thomas Nelson Publishers released Austin’s first book, Take Your Best Shot. For the second year, Austin was one of the speakers on The Revolve Tour 09, where he spoke to thousands of girls about the theme of his book. Throughout the past 6 years, Austin has been a featured keynote speaker at various schools, universities, conferences, and churches around the world with stops in Beijing, Luxembourg, Zambia, Qatar, as well as at the United States Air Force Academy.

Now 16 years old, Austin continues to speak on behalf of children he has met in many of his oversees travels. Austin continues to relay stories to raise awareness and encourage kids to participate and host, Hoops of Hope events. Although many lives have been improved through Austin’s efforts with Hoops of Hope, the impact of his message is still to be determined, as he continues to share and challenge his generation to make a difference, and with God’s help, to take their best shot, and do something bigger than themselves.