Today was a pretty crazy day. It started with me cutting my finger while making a cup of coffee [go figure]. Anyway, through the busyness of it all, my wife and I decided to swing through the drive thru at our local Starbucks. I needed the caffeine if I was going to make it through the lines at the store. We ordered our coffee and waited in line. When we finally got to the window, I was informed that the lady in the car in front of us wished us a "Merry Christmas" and she had paid for our order. How cool. I've heard of these things happening to other people, but honestly, not to me. It changed my entire outlook on the day. So to the lady in the blue 4-Runner, thanks for getting my focus off of me and on to others. I hope you'll serve someone this season. After all, a little over 2000 years ago, we were given the best gift ever!
This year, we had over 4,000 girls sign up from the Revolve Tour to do Hoops of Hope. The following video is a special Merry Christmas video from Austin for these 4,000 Revolve girls. Thank you to everyone who helped us make a small difference in the lives of these children in 2008. Our prayer is that you'll have an amazing Christmas.
Since the last video I posted was pretty serious, and some have blamed me for "making them cry", I thought I'd post a funny one this time. This was shot for our Hoops of Hope event in Arizona. Have a great weekend.
The following video is one of the coolest I think you'll ever see. Nicholas has several rare forms of cancer and each day is a gift. His dream is to be a rock-star. Well, for the rest, just watch the video. And if you've never had a chance to go to a Revolve Tour event, I'd recommend it highly.
This past Sunday, December 7th [Saturday in the US], the Western Academy of Beijing held their first Hoops of Hope event! The event was incredible as over 150 students participated. They even has some competition after the free-throw marathon. I've posted some photos here! Way to go Beijing - thank you for making a difference!
One of the first locations outside of Arizona to do Hoops of Hope was our Orange County, CA location. Our INCREDIBLE host and friend, Rachel Johnston has led this effort for 4 years and does an amazing job each time. In my opinion, the best tradition they have going is that every year, their event kicks off with an appearance by the now famous, Basketball Jones. I actually know this "mysterious" Mr. Jones and I know he can hoop it up. Which is why I laugh every year when I hear that he missed the first free-throw once again! Rumor has it that he has to keep doing Hoops of Hope until he makes the opening free-throw - which is exactly why I'm glad he keeps missing it. It's good to know he's trying, but even better to know he'll be back next year. Hoops of Hope wouldn't be the same without him!
At least he hit the rim this year :)
Thanks Orange County for loving these kids and for setting the standard for us to follow in our events. You guys are incredible.
I thought I'd take a break from the weekend stories to share with you some updated pictures we received today of the Jonathan Sim Legacy School in Twachiyanda, Zambia. This is the school Hoops of Hope participants helped to build in 2007.
Inside one of the classrooms.
Outside - the Hoops of Hope Hoop is in the background
The weekend was incredible! We're just now starting to hear the stories from around the world from those that participated in Hoops of Hope this past week. We'll post a bunch of them here so check back often. As for our event in Arizona, we had 125 shooters show up and probably 200 volunteers. We had participants range in age from 18 months to 70 years old. In total, our Phoenix location raised $13,200 for the clinic!
The highlight of our event though was when a family from Burundi came and sang for us. Seriously, probably 30 family members, all refugees from Burundi came to our gym and sang songs in Swahili. It was an amazing day. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.
We just finished setting up our gym for Hoops of Hope. Tomorrow morning at 7:30am, we're expecting over 130 people to show up to shoot with us. If you're doing a Hoops of Hope event this weekend, know that you're in our prayers. If you're like me, you're probably wondering if anyone will show up :). Believe me, they will - and your event will be incredible. I'm looking forward to all the stories that are unpacked over the next few days. Thanks again for being part of the journey. Tomorrow, kids lives will be changed forever.
It's Thursday and we're only two days away for our busiest weekend of the year. Over the next few days, we're expecting 230 Hoops of Hope events to take place in 17 countries. To think, five years ago, we thought this would be a one-day thing. I'm so thankful for the incredible group of people God has brought together to help pull this off.
I received an email today that hit me pretty hard. It was from the Life Time Caring Orphanage in Nigeria, Africa. This orphanage cares for children, many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. Here's the cool part...on Monday, the kids from this orphanage did Hoops of Hope. Not for themselves, but to help other orphan kids. They got pledges and did the event so they could help other kids who aren't so fortunate. I've done some research on this orphanage and I know that they have needs of their own, and a lot of them. Yet, the kids here did something so selfless it just boggles my mind. If an orphan child can do something, can't we all? I'm getting pictures of this event, and I'll post them as soon as they come in!
Today is World AIDS Day. A day that is set aside to create awareness to a disease that has orphaned over 15 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa. 15 Million comes and goes as just a number, BUT, think about how many children this represents. If 15 million children were to link hands and stand in a straight line, they'd stretch from Los Angeles to New York and back again...5 1/2 times! Think about that. That represents a lot of children left alone. Which is why Hoops of Hope exists - to create awareness in youth and adults in developed countries to care for these 15 million children. All by doing something fun.
This Saturday, we are expecting about 200 locations in 17 countries to host a Hoops of Hope event, representing thousands of kids, teens and adults. It should be a great day and one that we pray not only changes the life of a child in Africa, but changes every participant as well.
Wow. One full week without blogging. Where does all the time go? Here at Hoops of Hope, in addition to working our "day jobs", we're busy coordinating upwards of 100 events that are planned on December 6th in possibly 16 different countries. It's a busy time, but a season that we love. Our volunteers and small staff are doing an incredible job coordinating these events. Not a day goes by that we don't thank God for them.
Last week, we were at Revolve in Spokane Washington. About 4,000 girls attended and we had over 380 sign up to do a Hoops of Hope event before December 6th. Incredible. Right now, we're about 1/2 way to funding the medical clinic in Chilala. I'm hoping and praying we meet our goal :)
Tomorrow, Austin will be heading to Portland for another incredible weekend with the Revolve Tour.
Here are two incredible videos from Hoops of Hope in Australia. The event took place last weekend. This event was amazing and goes to show that no matter how large or small, you're making a huge difference. I'm so proud of Tara and all of your friends who gave up their day to shoot Hoops of Hope. Enjoy the videos - I sure did.
I love hearing of and telling stories of incredibly passionate people. This past weekend, while Austin was at LCBC speaking, my wife kept texting me telling how something at this church just "felt different". I guess she was right. I found out yesterday that this church raised almost $80,000 over the weekend! Wow. In a down economy, these people just gave like crazy. I think they really get it and I can't tell you how encouraged we are to witness these stories. If you want to know what I mean, check out the audio of the weekend service. I was challenged, and I think you will be to.
Almost every week, I get to see young people from the Revolve Tour stepping forward to sponsor children in another land. They step forward and stand in the gap for these kids. You've heard the slogans I'm sure..."for a dollar a day, you can...". Here's the reality though - if you're going through a good organization, this stuff is real! I've touched the hands of children who are given hope because of someone who sponsors them. They're given food, clothing, shelter, uniforms for school, clean water, medical care and the list goes on and on. These kids are real and the programs really work.
Which is why when I see a young child moved to sponsor another child, my heart smiles like crazy. I read a story yesterday in the World Vision winter mailing about such a child. Joanna Vasquez dreamed of providing hope for a little girl in Brazil who's picture caught her eye. A mere $35 a month might not seem like a lot, but to an 11 year old girl, it's a lot of money. So Joanna took her sponsor child's picture around to all her neighbors and asked them if they would donate their cans and bottles to her so she could recycle them and raise enough money for her sponsor child. Almost everyone in her neighborhood said yes. She established a pick-up routine and get this, collected more than 17,000 bottles and cans! She earned $771...enough to more than sponsor her little friend in Brazil.
Most days I wish I had more vision like this little girl. Joanna, today, you're my hero.
The weekend was incredible. Over $6000 was raised at the University of South Florida event and 737 girls signed up to do Hoops of Hope during the Revolve Tour in Philadelphia! To wrap it up, Austin was able to share at the LCBC church in Lancaster. This church is doing Hoops of Hope on December 6th and they already have about 300 people committed to participating. I think it's one of the best organized events I've seen yet and it's so exciting to see the church and community rallying around them. Can't wait to see what happens!
Rumor has it that there are almost 10,000 girls at the Philadelphia Revolve Tour!! How cool. Austin will be speaking in the morning this time as he heads to Lancaster this afternoon to spend the weekend at the LCBC Hoops of Hope event.
I had some time this morning while flying to Indiana for a wedding to actually “read the paper”. It’s something I’ve been ignoring for about three months now, as the news just hasn’t been that great. Think about it, do you feel better after reading the paper or watching the news? I’m sorry, but I usually don’t. And, after reading it today…I think I’ve been right. It seems like every page is about the economy. Ugh, it depresses me to see so many people hurting. I guess that’s why when we see people donating to Hoops of Hope, especially when times are tough, it’s so incredibly encouraging.
In fact, just yesterday Denise and Austin headed to the University of South Florida to attend a Hoops of Hope event. It was an amazing event that raised over $3,000 towards the building of the clinic. So, thank you for giving and go ahead and take a sabbatical from the paper. Even Sarah Palin’s wardrobe article isn’t worth the read.
I went and voted today, joining millions of Americans who exercised their right to vote. No matter who you voted for, or who wins, it's an incredible right and freedom that we have to elect someone to office. Surprisingly, there wasn't even a line at the polling place. Nope, I just walked right in, voted, got my little sticker and was out the door on my way to Starbucks for a free cup of coffee just for voting. What a wonderful country.
So today, I'm thankful for the right to vote. Remember the scenes of Iraqi people walking 48 hours and standing in line for 17 hours just to vote? My polling place didn't look anything like this picture.
How about the situation in Zimbabwe, where the people were told to vote for Mugabe or starve? Wow, today is a good day. The person I voted for may or may not win, but I got the chance to vote and my prayer is that right will never go away.
This weekend is a break from the Revolve Tour [Austin's pretty bummed, but I think he needs a weekend off] so I thought I'd post an quick update on where we are through October. The clinic we funded last year is scheduled to open next month and we're all pretty excited about this, knowing that lives are going to be saved. Be sure to check out the post from October 16 to see the pictures.
So our project this year is to fund a second clinic. This second clinic will be located about 3 hours north of the one opening next month. The area for this second clinic is near Chilala which is pretty close to the Jonathan Sim Legacy School which opened last year. The budget for this second clinic is $322,000. It will cost about $125,000 more than the first one as it will be a specialty clinic to work to prevent mother to child transmission. It will also contain 3 doctors houses. Right now, we've raised a little over $100,000 for this clinic. We're actually right on track to fund it fully as we have close to 100 Hoops of Hope events happening between now and mid December! So, if already did an event or if you're doing Hoops of Hope sometime in the next 6 weeks, every penny you raise will go to build this clinic.
I can't tell you enough how much we appreciate every volunteer, every shooter and every donor. You're helping to change lives and making an eternal impact. We'll keep you posted and thank you for all you do....
I came across an article today that stated 71% of adults believe they are "fulfilling their calling in life", while 51% also said they are "searching for meaning and purpose in life" [Barna Group]. Not sure why this hit me as weird, but it did. Common, if you're fulfilling your calling in life, don't you also have meaning and purpose? Is this logical? Made me wonder how I would have answered these questions.
The answer is probably part of the reason why when we do "good deeds" we "feel good". We're wired that way and all of us want to have meaning and purpose while fulfilling our calling in life. I don't have all the answers, but I can assure you, giving to others will absolutely create a sense of meaning and purpose.
Here's a story I just had to blog about. Each weekend the guys from Hawk Nelson visit a local Ronald McDonald House wherever they are on the Revolve Tour. This isn't something that is crazily advertised, they just go do it. They spend time loving on kids and making a difference in their lives.
Well, this past weekend, they visited the local house in Sacramento and they ended up bringing a little boy to the show on Saturday [sorry, I can't post his name]. The little guy was an amazing 5 year-old boy but he has four different types of cancer. We learned that his body is no longer responding to chemo treatments, so as you can imagine each day is a miracle and blessing. His dream was to be a rock star and for one Saturday afternoon, he was just that. He sang You Are My Sunshine to over 7,000 screaming girls before Jason Dunn led him over to the drum set where he climbed up and played a drum solo. Everyone in the audience [who was crying by the way] started chanting the little boy's name as he played on.
Imagine for a second how his mom must have felt watching her 5 year-old son live out his dream on stage for just a few minutes? What the band did was simple, but definitely not insignificant. I'm going to look for something simple today that I can do to add significance to someones life.
Thanks Hawk Nelson for being more than just a great band. Thank you to our new rock star for playing like a pro - your prayers are with us.
Every so often, things happen at Hoops of Hope that rock our world. Little things and for some reason, they almost always happen at the Post Office. Like the time I went and pulled out a bag of coins from our box. Seriously, someone sent a bag of change and it actually made it through the system and to our PO Box - untouched [by the way, I don't recommend this :)].
This happened again last week, but this time the bag didn't jingle. It was a real check, and the story is what impacted us. Back in April, a freelance writer came to our house to do a story on Hoops of Hope for some Sunday School curriculum. The check was from him. It was made out for exactly what he was paid for doing the story. He included a note on how he just wanted to "be a part" of Hoops of Hope. How awesome and how inspiring. Thank you, Mr. Freelance writer. You've not only helped orphan children in Africa, helped tell the story so more will get involved, but you encouraged us beyond imagination.
I ran across an organization today that provides hearing aids to people in third-world countries. I learned about the Starkey Hearing Foundation from a preview article in NEED Magazine. I think it was the incredible blue of the girls eyes in this picture [I found they're that color because of the disease that took her hearing] that captured my attention. Honestly, I've never thought about what it would be like to not be able to hear. I love to read about organizations that are helping others with issues that I never bothered to even think about. I can't imagine what it would be like to never be able to hear, and then be given that gift. If you get a chance, check them out today. Check out NEED Magazine as well. This group did a great story on Hoops of Hope last year and they've been through some difficult times due to a theft to their office. But, they're back in business and as they say, they're not "out to change the world but to tell the stories of those who are".
Last week, I traveled to Texas for a work related [i.e. non- Hoops of Hope] conference...yes, Austin's dad has a job other than Hoops of Hope :). Our group rented out a swanky suite in a big hotel to host a bunch of customers and after hanging out for a while, I slipped out to go back to my hotel a few miles or so down the road. I went to the transportation desk to arrange a ride and found myself in the back of a big SUV. It's true - everything is bigger in Texas.
My driver was a nice lady who appeared to be in her late '40s and when she asked me how my day was going, I quickly picked up on her accent. Turns out she was from Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe is directly below Zambia where Hoops of Hope is working). Being a curious person, I began asking her how in the world she got from Zimbabwe to Texas. Her story rocked my little world. She and her husband fled when violence erupted in her village and ended up coming to the US to find work. They are both drivers at this hotel where we were meeting.
The rest of the story I'll admit caused a few tears. I asked her about her family and she proceeded to tell me that she and her husband have five children. The youngest is now eight years old and they left him when he was three. She told me the only way she gets through each day is through God and knowing that her sister is caring for her children. The story went on for a while and ends up all their paperwork is now final and they are hoping to save enough to get their children back with them within the next several months.
I know what everyone thinks....scam, right? Well, honestly, I don't know. I do know her accent is real. I know her tears are real. I know the stories from her homeland are real. If her story then is real, what would be so bad to cause a person to leave their family and small children? I'm not sure and I'm not sure I ever want to know. I am sure that I'm incredibly fortunate to live in the United States.
If her story is a scam, oh well, I've been had. For me, I'd rather give with some risk, than to not give at all.
Almost two weeks later and I'm just now beginning to digest the impact of a conference called Catalyst. Honestly, before Brad [the guy who runs the entire show] called us in June, I really didn't know much about it. Now, I can't stop talking about it. It is by far the best conference for church leaders I've ever seen. It isn't a conference that promotes one "style" or "brand" over the other, it's just a conference to refresh, renew and challenge the leaders of today's churches. In fact, it even challenged us.
They invited Austin to do an interview onstage and it was an incredible time and honor to be there. In fact, after the interview, they hired a professional dunk team to do some entertainment and pledged $1000 per shot that they made. They ended up donating $10,000 to Hoops of Hope to help us build the medical clinic in Chilala. Needless to say, we were blown away. I've attached a few videos on our YouTube page so you can see for yourself.
I also had the chance to sit and listen to a few of the speakers while we were there. I found myself completely engaged in a talk by Craig Groeschel of LiveChurch. He talked about the beginnings of his church and how they first met in a two car garage...no powerpoints, videos or any technology to speak of. But what made it work was what he called the "It" factor. This factor was the drive and passion behind the ministry. We've all been to places before that just have it, right? Places that just feel different. Companies that seem to get it. People that you want to associate with.
You're probably getting where I'm going with this. Yes, his talk made me think about Hoops of Hope. Technology? Well, we now have two computers thanks to an amazing donor. We don't have an office and quite frankly, don't need one. But I think we do have that "It" factor. We probably have 1,000 or more volunteers that help pull off Hoops of Hope events around the world. They don't get paid a penny and in fact, I'm sorry to say, sometimes aren't even thanked like they should be. But they keep working. Why? Because they have "It". There "It" is a passion to help these children that just drives them. My prayer today is that we'll never lose "It".
Thanks Catalyst for getting "It" and for giving "It".
Every now and then, you run into an organization that just "gets it". Thomas Nelson Live is one of these organizations. Sure, they're a business and they're financially responsible, but, their core motives go way beyond the statistics you'll find in a 10K report. We've had the privilege of joining them this year on the Revolve Tour and this weekend, we'll be at the fifth stop in St. Louis. If you've never heard of the Revolve Tour, be sure to check it out. Over 2,000 girls have already committed to doing a Hoops of Hope event from the first four Revolve Tour stops. The girls will be working on not only helping us complete our second medical clinic in Zambia, but will also be building care centers for orphan children in Swaziland. The best part of the Revolve Tour though is not the number of sign ups. It's hearing the stories of teenage girls who have been impacted by the Hoops of Hope story. I love hearing from girls who once thought they couldn't do anything who now think they can. If you've never had the chance to see the impact of this event, go to their website and find out when it's going to be in a city near you. I get chills every time I look out over an audience of 7,000 plus girls realizing that some of them are hearing for the first time how special they are and that they matter to God. It's a great experience - way to go Revolve and thanks for letting us journey with you.
In the end, it's all about changed lives. Not just in Africa, but here as well.
It seems fitting, I guess, that a blog which I hope will "inform and encourage young people to do more" would start on October 16th. Today will come and go for most everyone as just a normal day. But, today is actually known as "World Food Day". Today, millions across the globe face hunger, malnutrition and disease only made worse by the increase in food prices. Tonight, 854 million people will go to bed hungry [United Nations, 2006]. When I think of these statistics, it really gets me. Think about it - 854 million people is more than double the population of the United States. But, we're not asked to solve the worlds problems. We're asked to just do something. Help one person, one family and you've done your part.
I read an article today about the very community Hoops of Hope is helping this year in Zambia. You can view the article online by clicking here. We've been there, touched the hands of these people and I can't wait to get back. In fact, just last week we received the first pictures of the new medical lab / clinic we're building in Sinazongwe. Thanks to everyone who helped with this facility. It opens next month and immediately will start the process of literally saving lives. When we were in Sinazongwe, the World Vision director told Austin that if they could just extend the lives of the working men for another three years, it would change the entire economic structure of this community. This facility will do just that. Thanks for being a part. Enjoy the day and remember it's not just an ordinary day.