Thursday, December 3, 2009

Take Your Best Shot

Fifteen-year-old Austin Gutwein, the founder of Hoops of Hope, shares his story of inspiration in Take Your Best Shot. This remarkable young man was touched, at the tender age of nine, when he saw a video produced by World Vision about AIDS victims in Africa. Austin wanted to do something to help, but he didn’t know what. Austin loved to play basketball even though, by his own admission, he’s no good at it. Then someone suggested he use his passion for basketball to help the cause in Africa.

Thus, Hoops of Hope got its start. At first, Austin’s goal was to raise enough money to sponsor eight children in Africa for one year. He determined that if he could make 2,057 free throws, and get enough people to sponsor him at $1 per basket, he could raise the necessary money. He started shooting hoops in his school gym with just his parents and a couple of friends in attendance. Word soon spread and someone from a radio station called him for an interview. Then a couple of camera crews for local TV stations showed up. Before he was done, there were almost 60 people there watching him. As a result, he not only reached his goal of 2,057 free throws (no, he didn’t make them all) and his financial goal, he had started “the ball rolling” so to speak.

He says, “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what was going to happen that day I started shooting hoops in the gym. My goal was to shoot 2,057 free throws, collect my pledges, and make a major difference in the lives of a couple of kids. It was going to be a one-day event. I was going to take my best shot at doing something bigger than myself and that was it…But that’s not the way the day turned out in the end.”

After that momentous day, instead of being content with what he had done, Austin began to wonder: What if….a thousand of my friends could do this next year? Think of all the money we could raise. By the power of the grapevine, the power of the media, the power of the Internet, and most importantly by God’s power, over one thousand kids in six different locations in the US shot hoops the second year, raising $38,000. The next year, over 10,000 people in 11 countries joined in. And the organization keeps growing, bigger and bigger each year, providing funding for all types of projects to help AIDS victims in Africa.

Along with telling his remarkable story, the author includes stories about the World Vision organization and stories about other kids in different parts of the world who have made a difference in people’s lives. Austin’s goal is not to get you to get you to take up the World Vision cause; rather, he wants to encourage everyone to find their “passion” in life and make a difference. As he says, “That’s really my whole goal for this book…I’m hoping and praying that the Hoops of Hope story will give you the courage to go out and make your own story.”

Each chapter begins with some type of inspirational quote. Bible verses are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. And each chapter ends with a section called “Take your Best Shot” that include ideas and thought-provoking questions about the context of each chapter. Blank spaces are provided for writing down your answers. The author encourages the reader to mark up the book, to make it their own. He also includes a “Take Action” item at the end of each chapter, giving the reader a chance to do something relating to the chapter’s topic.

There are some illustrations in the book. They are in the form of photos presented at the beginning of each chapter.

What I Like: Everything. This is a story everyone should read. Austin makes it clear that the way to make a real change in the world is to take action, to do something. No one person can do everything, but if we work together as a team, and each team member does his/her part, then the possibilities for change are endless.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: The book is written for young adults, but I really enjoyed reading it!

Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2009; ISBN: 9781400315154; Paperback, $12.99.

Buy now at ChristianBook $9.99!

Or buy at $9.35.
Special Info: The book was co-authored by Todd Hillard. Read about him at the Thomas Nelson Publishing website. To learn more about Hoops of Hope, visit their website. To learn more about World Vision, visit their website.

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