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Amazing Kid: Austin Gutwein
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Amazing Kid: Austin Gutwein
Home Town: Mesa, Ariz.
School: Gilbert Christian High School, Gilbert, Ariz.
Favorite Ice Cream: Vanilla
Why Austin is Amazing: When he was just 9 years old, Austin started Hoops of Hope, the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, which has to date raised over $2.2 million to benefit children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Inspired to action by the story of a little Zambian girl named Maggie who had lost both of her parents to AIDS, Austin knew he had to do something to help. So, he began shooting baskets to raise money, using his favorite sport to make a difference.
At his very first event in 2004, Austin set a goal to shoot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 children worldwide who would be orphaned during his school day because of AIDS (there are about 6,000 children orphaned worldwide during an entire day). Starting small, he asked people locally to sponsor him and donate toward his cause. After that first year, he felt like he was being called to have more kids do it with him, so he just started spreading the word, with the help of radio and other media. Today, Hoops of Hope has about 40,000 kids worldwide that shoot baskets throughout the year.
One hundred percent of what the organization raises goes to fund projects, including a school and two medical clinics in Zambia, a water system in Kenya, two Orphan Hope Centers in Swaziland, bicycles and mosquito nets for caregivers in Zambia, earthquake relief in Haiti, and more. Further, they are currently building a school in India and an orphanage in Kenya.
In looking ahead, Austin tells ParentDish: "We've never had a game plan for Hoops of Hope; we've just continued to make a difference year after year. So I don't really know, but I'm excited to see what the future holds."
Recent Recognition: Caring Institute 2009 Caring Award; 2008 Build-a-Bear Huggable Heroes Award; 2007 State Prudential Spirit of the Community Award; 2007 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes
Austin's Advice to Kids: I would encourage kids to really get out there and make a difference. So many times we think we should wait until we're an adult to do something, but we -- teens and kids -- can absolutely change the world ... It's really just about starting small; just starting with that one elderly lady in your neighborhood or that homeless guy on the side of the street that you want to make a difference for.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.