rebelling against low expectations

Austin Gutwein: Hoops of Hope


Like many 14-year-old guys, Austin Gutwein loves basketball. Unlike most, however, Austin has used his love for hoops to raise over $450,000 for AIDS orphans in the nation of Zambia. Hoops of Hope began in 2004, when Austin was 9 years old.

“I wasn’t as good as other players, and I’m still not,” Austin told CBS Sports. “But I’m really passionate about helping kids, especially kids who are less fortunate than me. What really moves me is when I hear about kids who have been orphaned.”

“A World Outside My Own Backyard…”

In the spring of 2004 Austin saw a video by the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision about children who had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Recalling Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, he decided that he had to do something.

“What really hit me hard was just thinking about how I’d be if I lost my parents,” the young Arizonan explained to MSNBC during a trip to Africa. “I’d be devastated, and yet there are 15 million children in the world that have.”

A Simple Idea = Hoops for Hope

After begging his dad to let him do something, Austin was put in touch with World Vision. The next thing he knew they were having a conference call. And after taking stock of his talents and interests, they came up with a simple idea: free throws.

“We decided that I would shoot free throws in honor of the kids who were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS,” Austin explains. 2,057 free throws, to be exact — one for each child that would be orphaned that school day by HIV/AIDS.

On December 1st, 2004 — World AIDS Day — 10-year-old Austin shot his 2,057 free throws. Individuals in his community had agreed to sponsor him, raising over $3,000 for World Vision, enough to help eight orphans. But Austin wasn’t satisfied.

“1,000 of My Friends to Join Me…”

“The second year I went up to my dad and told him, Hey Dad, I want to shoot free throws again, but this time I want to get 1,000 of my friends to join me.” Austin says, laughing. “He kind of gave me that look.”

That year Austin and his dad went around to dozens of churches and schools and told them about Hoops for Hope. Austin reached his goal: 1,000 friends shooting free throws for orphans. And he wasn’t ready to stop yet.

The third year, in 2006, Austin decided that he wanted to do a specific projects. That year they raised enough funds to build a school in Twachiyanda, Zambia. Last year they raised over $200,000 for a medical testing center in Sinazongwe.

And this year their goal is to raise $290,000 for a second medical center, along with 1,000 caregiver kits and 1,000 bicycles for caregivers in Zambia.

Austin Gutwein: A Real Rebelutionary

Austin has built a school and a medical center. He has been featured nationally by major TV networks. He has even traveled over 10,000 miles to Twachiyanda for the opening of the school he helped to build — arriving as the guest of honor.

All those things, by themselves, don’t make him a rebelutionary. What makes Austin a rebelutionary is that, despite all that he has accomplished, he doesn’t view himself as anything special. He is a wonderful example of how and why we do hard things.

“What I’ve learned from doing Hoops of Hope is that it can take just one kid to make a difference,” he explains. “One kid just has to have a passion. And also, I’ve learned that God can use anybody. You don’t have to be out-of-the-ordinary, you can just be a normal kid. You don’t have to wait to be an adult to make a difference. You can make a difference in the lives of anybody, just by wanting to do something.”

Closing Thoughts

Austin, we want to commend you for your example and testimony. Your heart for orphans and desire to move your generation to action is an inspiration. May God bless and strengthen you as you continue to “do hard things” for Him.

Everyone else, we want to encourage you to learn more about what Austin is doing and get involved. But more than that, we want you to catch a vision for how God could use you — normal, ordinary you — to make a real difference for His glory.

Take Action – Get Involved

  • Watch and Learn: Watch coverage of Hoops for Hope and see Austin share about his passion for orphans and the urgent need in Zambia.
  • Shoot Hoops: Join thousands of other kids and teens in a basketball shoot-a-thon this December. Start practicing your free throws!
  • Host an Event: No Hoops for Hope shoot-a-thon scheduled in your area? You can host one! Get your friends together to make a difference.
  • Become a Sponsor: Don’t care for free throws? Sponsor those who do!
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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Praise God!

    God has used Austin to show others what can be accomplished when we serve him and not give into accepting the norm for our generation.

    Many kids in the U.S. have such opportunity to do things like this that’s wasted on video games, and chat rooms. Reach out to those around us and beyond! They are equal in their importance even if they don’t have our opportunities.

    In HIM,

  • How incredible! That really goes to show, how even though you are young, you CAN “do hard things”! 🙂

  • That’s great!! Zambia has a special place in my heart, becuase I’ve been there! =) I will be praying for you Austin!

  • Wow! I am a lot like Austin. I love basketball but I am not the best! I think this idea is awesome! I really want to get involved and hopefully I can get my whole team involved! Way to go Austin!

  • WOW! That is so encouraging! I am trying to find a way to put limits on abortions, but I have no idea where to start!! It’s encouraging to see that I can, I just need God’s help.


  • Katie-
    Have you thought of helping in a crisis pregnancy center near you? I don’t even know if there IS one near you, but it’s just a thought. My sister and Mom helped start one where I live, and there are TONS of areas to help. It’s just a way to start helping those individuals and letting them know there IS another alternative besides an abortion. ;-)Just a thought! 🙂

  • I’ve been burdened recently for the people in Africa, especially after seeing a picture in WORLD magazine where a woman was making mud pies for children to eat. At this point, I don’t know if I myself will be able to do anything about it, but in the meantime I’m so glad someone is working to help these people!

  • Wow way to go Austin!Our family sponsors through World vision it is truly a wonderful organization.

  • Thanks so much. That posting came at just the right time for me. I’ve been struggling with fighting this one sin and just came to the point where I didn’t really care anymore and thought “What can I really do?” Austin’s story reminded me that I’m called to fight and to make a difference, despite how small that difference may be. I need to cultivate a passion and determination for God and His glory. Thanks Austin! You’ve reminded me of my hope.

  • Awesome! I’ll try to find a shoot-a-thon near me so I can help Austin and the children in Africa. Keep it up, Austin!!

  • Amazing! I am inspired by the way Austin has used his love for basketball for loving fellow humans in unfortunate circumstances. Great job!

    Keep fighting, Austin! 🙂

  • Hey way to go Austin!! It’s really encouraging to see kids our age helping people and reaching them for Christ. My only prayer is that more of us would be like Austin in his ministry. Keep up the awesome work!

  • How incredible! As a friend once said, “God fed five thousand with a couple loaves and a few fish… imagine what he could do with a LIFE!”

    We serve an awesome God.

  • That’s incredible! I would never have believed free-throws could be used for something so awesome, but God can do anything. Good job, Austin! I showed this article to my brother Austin who’s also 14 and loves basketball. I have a feeling he’ll be getting involved. 😀

  • OK, that is one of the most cool and creative rebelutionary ideas yet. While free throws aren’t my cup of tea, that’s really an awesome idea.

  • Wow, this is amazing! I never thought that in visiting the site today that I would see Austin. What’s even more amazing is that Austin is my pastor’s nephew. Austin’s mom is my pastor’s wifes sister. We live all the way out here in little old Anderson, SC and it’s is really cool to see someone that you know featured on one of the top Christian sites on the internet. The first time I got to personally meet him was in Beijing, China. God had orchestrated that we would “coincidentally” be staying in the exact same hotel at the exact same time and that would be able to meet up…in CHINA!! He was there speeking to school’s about AIDS and giving some speeches. And he is only 14, he truly does exemplify what it really means to “do hard things” because I’m sure he was out of his comfort zone and doing all the 5 steps of doing hard things. What an inspiration to all of us! Thanks for sharing his awesome story to the world!

  • Grace Hamilton-
    I have thought of that, but I’m not sure whether there’s one near me or not. Mom says I could volunteer at one, but the only problem I see is that I would not be able to come close to comprehending the pain and pressure they’re under. I’m only thirteen, but i don’t want my age to be a barrier for what I can do for the Lord. Thanks for the advice though. I really need help to find a way.

    Hannah Maria-
    I clicked on the link you put, but my computer couldn’t upload the website. Thanks anyway.


  • Katie-
    So, you’re saying thay you don’t think you could encourage and help those individuals in those situations because you are younger and aren’t aware of the topics of conversation and advise that is given out? Am I following you? Or did I take a left? 😀

    If that’s what you mean, I’d say this. There are tons of areas that need help at a pregnancy center. Not just with couseling. But if you do want to counsel, you can start learning now and then when you are older you can do it with a client.(i think there is an age limit of the counselor) They do have trainings for the ladies who give sonograms and counseling because there are certain ways they talk to the clients in a crisis. There’s also jobs for cleaning, organizing, inputting into the computer, cooking, arranging Bible study classes for the clients, making baby blankets, collecting baby clothes and accessories, answering phones, fundraising…..etc. The list goes on. Anyway, just trying to give you some other options if you feel a little nervous about talking to the clients. There are other ways to help! 😉

    Finding one near you….try typing in at the googel search bar “crisis pregnancy centers,___(your state or city)” and see what you get. A crisis pregnancy center should have a website. So then you can see what pops up and if there is one near you! I hope you find some!! 😉

  • Wow way to go Austin!! Keep up the great work!
    God be glorified!

    “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  • Amazing. Austin is a year younger than me and he’s helping with a huge epidemic that effects the lives of kids. Thank you, this encourages me with my own project in my own small town. If God can help Austin, a passionate, ordinary teen, then God can help me take this Youth Revival up to the next level in his timing. Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing-and thanks for posting this blog guys!


  • Hey, yow, Austin, that’s a good one. It’s not always that young kids care about orphaned children. They’d rather play video games and basketball. I bet you do, but I’m glad you’re using your hoops skills for the glory of God. (I’m a thirteen year old and will be practicing being a shooting guard the next few months)

  • Austin has an amazing story and an amazing project. He has helped raise money for building a hospital and a school and I congrats him on that. He truly shows the love of God . But some of you guys talk about it like it is the hardest thing and that only Austin can do something like this. Think how healthy Africa and other third world countries could be if we had five or ten more Austins! So spend some of your time during summer planning things that WILL change the world and stop saying how boring your summer was. When you get back to school and your friends tell you how boring their summer was, you can tell them that you changed the world, made it a better place, and truly lived for God.

  • Wow! This is an amazing and encouraging story of faith! Think about how much could be accomplished if there were more ambitious God-loving people like Austin. I completely agree with Isaac Sargent when he said “So spend some of your time during summer planning things that WILL change the world…”God bless people like Austin!

  • It’s so great to hear about other teens with a passion to care for orphans all over the world. It is definitely a ministry I want to be involved in and it’s exciting to hear about people like Austin with the same “holy ambition”. Thanks for the post!

  • wow! when I read this, my first response was “wow you can really see god working in these situations” and then I realized that God is at work in all situations, seemingly big, or seemingly small. Great Post!!

  • Wow, that is so awesome! and such an encouragment!
    Way to go Austin for doing something about the passion and vision God has given you. 🙂

  • I cant believe you were only nine when you begun that I had just started singing in church when I was nine…now I sing for my school but its a christian school so it really dont matter, but it is so awesome that you did something for those people I was to scared to sing my first solo at church. WAY TO GO AUSTIN!!!!!!:-)

  • hey i am not very good a b-ball at all 🙂 but i would love to get involved with this it is awsome 🙂

  • wow, it’s amazing how he started hoops for hope when he was 9. i can’t belive he raised so much money. he must be such an inspiration.

    dance like no one’s watching
    sing like no one’s listening

  • That is very encouraging. It really is amazing what God can do through the youth who are “willing sticks.” Lately I have been working on a project called Help Groups. Encouraging kids all over America, to get together with their friends, and raise money for hurting children all over the world. Kids Helping kids. Youth in America have a lot of spending money, and I say, why not use some of that money to help kids who, don’t have any money. Please pray for me and my organization.

  • This is such an amazing idea!!! It is so amazing that I am doing a report on you as my hero! I NEED to know where Austin, you, you grew up! Please answer!!!!

  • What I wouldnt give to learn how you got your design to be so crazy! I mean it. Besides the website just being fantastic, this page is too sweet! Its not too flashy. It doesnt do too much with colours and things and the videos you use are perfect for this topic! Really, brilliant website.

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →