I'd like to share an interview with you today. One that is not like the normal writer's interview. This interview is about a very inspiring young man. I promise after you read this, you'll see beyond a shadow of a doubt that with God you CAN do anything.
I was able to talk to Austin on the phone for this interview. He was so polite and a real joy to talk to.
In 2004 I watched a video that showed the children who had lost their parents to AIDs. After watching the video, I realized these kids weren't any different than 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 AID's day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids that would be orphaned during my day at school.
People sponsored me and we were able to raise almost $3000. That year the money was used by World Vision, to provide hope to 8 orphaned 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 $1 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school, and finally 2 new medical clinics which we were told will save an entire generation.
~Where are you and what are you wearing right now and you have to tell the truth?
I'm bare foot sitting on my bed. I'm wearing shorts and a tee shirt. It's going to be 100 degrees here today.
~When you started Hoops of Hope did you ever think that it would be as big as it has become today?
No, never did. That just goes to show that God is driving this thing. He is the one that made this what it is today. Not in a million years did I ever think it would be this big.
~Was it difficult getting this off the ground and keeping it going?
This goes back to the answer before. It was never really hard. God has been taking it where He wants to take it. We just leave it up to God and let Him take it where He wants it to go.
~My son wanted me to ask, how many children do you think you have helped through Hoops of Hope?
When we were in Africa and actually at the clinic, I asked them how many people he thought it would help. I was thinking 1000 or maybe 5000 and he said, 'to be completely honest with you Austin, this clinic will save generations.' That was awesome. I don't know how much the other clinic and the school is going to help as well.
~How much time do you put into the Hoops of Hope now that the organization has grown and how do you balance school and other activities with that?
I definitely put a couple hours every day in after school. And sometimes on Thursday but always Friday and the weekend is all day. I speak at conferences. I love it.
~Do you get nervous? OH yes!
~I know in your book you said you're just a normal kid but really you are not of the norm. Most kids think about themselves first, then friends, family and others. Do you think other kids are just not listening to God's voice or just think they can't do it so are afraid to try?
To be totally honest I don't think it is either of those. I think they are listening to the Holy Spirit and it's not that they are afraid to try just they don't know how.
~Okay, I'm thinking you are 15 here. I have a 15 year old son and Chemistry can overwhelm him at times. Do you ever get overwhelmed with what you are trying to do and what do you do about it?
I have a tutor for Chemistry this year. So I struggle with stuff too. When I do I pray. I realize God has me doing this for a reason. The bible says He won't put us through more than we can stand. He knows our limits. When times get tough, God is right there with me.
~I read you raised money to help build a school in Africa. Can you tell us about what they gave you and why it is so special to you?
We built the school in 2007. I was given the Tonga name, Maiya. It was special to me because that is a sign that you are in the family, you're in the club. That was cool because that meant I was one of them. My name means, One who is quick to lend aid, and one who will tell our story.
~Can you tell us about the clinics that were built by Hoops of Hope?
We built 2 medical clinics. The second one was under construction when I was there in March so we didn't get to see it finished. It's cool just to hear it would save generations. These kids, as they grow up, are going to see their parents. Knowing the hope these kids are going to have is incredible.
~How far apart are the clinics and what do they do at them?
The clinics are about 2 hours apart. They have ARV's cd for the account machines. They can tell what each person's white blood cells are doing and diagnose them with AIDs. It's providing a life line. They go in to receive testing (in the past it took a long time to get AIDs tests results). Then they go for precounseling, receive ARV treatment, then more counseling. They walk out knowing they have AIDs but it's okay and they are still going to be loved and they are going to stay alive longer.
~How much has Hoops of Hope grown since you started it?
Wow! Hoops of Hope has grown to over 20 different countries and over 25,000 adult, teens, and children. It has raised 1 1/2 million dollars to help these kids. 100% of the proceeds goes to help these people.
~Yikes! Hope I don't put you between a rock and a hard spot here but who is your biggest fan/supporter?
Definitely my little sister.
~How old is she? Austin: She is 14 and she is 14 months younger than me.
~Okay a few fun questions now. If you could go any place in the world that you have never been where would that be and why?
Hmmm. I don't know. I 've always wanted to go to the Amazon River and see all the cool creatures. Either that or the Caribbean. That would be fun.
~If you could meet any person alive or dead who would that be and why? (excluding the Lord because we'd all pick Him.)
I would probably say Paul. Paul is such a great dude in his faith. It's so cool how he started the church. It'd be fun to meet him and share how the church has grown today.
~If the Lord told you that you were allowed to bring one material thing with you to heaven, what would that be? And why? (Material not being a person)
Definitely my dog, because I think she is the greatest dog.
~What kind of dog do you have? Okay before I go any further and give you his answer, I'd like to say, I agree he has THE coolest DOG!
Austin: A sheltie.
~For those of you who don't know, I raise and have shown shelties.
~And I'm going to exclude Hoops of Hope from this question. J I felt a little guilty excluding Hoops of Hope but after he gave me his answer I was glad I did. Joey (my 15 year old) are you reading this? Okay the question.
~If the Lord came down today and asked you what the last good deed you did for someone was, what would that be? (I like to ask this question because it is so neat to see the different ways we can bless other people's lives.)
Before the call I was cleaning my room.
~Did you hear that ladies? He was cleaning his room! Okay now this is a boy after every mother's heart! He was cleaning his room!!! Now that is cool.
~You've not only started Hoops of Hope, but you wrote a book. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did your story bring you to this point?
Well the fact is that I never dreamed I'd be a writer, never wanted to be one. I never thought I'd do a basketball marathon either. I'm not a good basketball player, and I'm a worse writer. God chooses the ordinary people. I'm just ordinary. He doesn't choose you because your popular. God just had it planned. He chooses the most ordinary people.
~Thank you Austin! This will probably be my most memorable interview.