Q: You encourage kids to embrace their uniqueness – inside and outside. Why is that such an important part of being able to Live to Give?
We have all heard the phrase "cookie cutters" and the truth is, we aren't all the same. It is a great thing! I wouldn't love cookies if they all looked, tasted, and smelled the exact same. We all have many gifts and talents that are unique to us. That is what makes you, you! When we embrace it, we can do so much for God because we are happy with what God gave us.
Q: Explain the lunchbox analogy that you use in the book. How can adults, as parents, teachers, youth workers help kids and teens find what’s in their lunchbox?
The lunch box analogy is from John 6 with the feeding of the 5000. We are told of a boy who is pulled from the crowd by Andrew, and Jesus uses this boy's meal to feed the entire crowd. The miracle happens because this boy is just willing to let God use what he has. I believe the analogy applies to the gifts and talents that God has given us in our "lunch." When we are willing to let God use that lunch, miracles can and will happen!
Adults can help students find what is in their lunch by asking thought provoking questions and pointing out the gifts they have. The best way anyone can help is encouragement. Encouraging the youth to just do something, anything, to make a difference!
Q: What inspired you to start Hoops of Hope? How old were you at the time?
In the spring of 2004, when I was 9 years old, I watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, I realized these kids weren’t any different from me except that they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them
I decided to shoot free throws, and on World AIDS Day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during my day at school. Friends and family sponsored me, and I was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used to provide hope to 8 orphan children.
Q: For those who may not be familiar with your ministry, can you tell us about Hoops of Hope and some of the projects you’ve been able to accomplish over the past 8 years?
Hoops of Hope is the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! You can join thousands of participants and teams from around the world that shoot free throws for children in need. Every dollar raised will go directly to the project you select to help these children. Every free throw will literally help keep children from becoming orphans.
Over the past eight years, Hoops of Hope has turned into the largest free throw marathon in the world with an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised close to $3 million. The efforts have led to the construction of the only high school in a rural region in Southern Zambia, four dormitories, two medical clinics, a computer laboratory, multiple water projects as well as the funding of a dormitory at an orphanage in Kenya and a school in India.