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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

'Hoops' combats AIDS

By David Henke
Variety Editor

Friday, December 7, 2007

On World AIDS Day in 2004, Austin Gutwein, a 12-year-old from Arizona, shot 2,057 free throws -- one for each child orphaned by AIDS during the average school day -- and raised $3,000 in charitable funds.

Now three years later his charity, Hoops of Hope, hosts nation-wide shoot-a-thons; this year even St. Olaf is getting in on the act. On Friday, Hoops of Hope will be hosting a basketball shoot-a-thon in Tostrud. The event was put together by a five-person student committee consisting of juniors Molly Jacobson, Dan Nierengarten, Wade Hauser, Angie Ulrich and Rebecca Dyre.

The St. Olaf Hoops of Hope shoot-a-thon will be the first of its kind in Minnesota. Participants pledge to shoot a certain amount of free throws during the event, then find sponsors in their communities. "It's like a walk-a-thon," Jacobson said. "People can sign up in teams or as individuals. So far, roughly 70 people have signed up. Five Northfield families have registered as well."

The money the event raises will go straight to the World Vision's Hope Initiative, an organization that provides care for HIV/AIDS orphans in areas highly affected by the disease. The organization hopes to raise $150,000 nationwide this year, all of which will go towards the construction of a medical lab in Sinazongwe, Zambia. The clinic will include counseling services for HIV/AIDS, preventative testing and education services. "Hoops of Hope was really excited to start this with us," Jacobson said. "It's been a task, but it's been well-worth it."

The wider Northfield community has gotten involved with Hoops of Hope too. Target, Cub Foods, Goodbye Blue Monday and Hogan Brothers have all donated gift certificates or items to a raffle to be held during the event.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have also donated two tickets to the raffle. Whoever participates will have their name entered in the raffle lottery.

The program will begin at 5 p.m. with an introductory program. Registration for the event starts at 4:30 p.m. "People can come and go as they need to,"" Jacobson said. She noted that fundraising is open for two weeks after the event, so participants can register the night of the shoot-a-thon and then continue to collect donations.

In addition to the shoot-a-thon, Jacobson and the committee organizers have arranged a number of activities, including a visit by Ole the Lion and a three-on-three basketball tournament. The charity aspect of the event greatly appealed to Rachel Kneeland '09 and her teammates.

"The idea that we would be doing something on a Friday night that would be worthwhile is great," she said. "It makes it really easy for people of all ages to participate in the global community," Jacobson said.

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