Baskets providing hope for children

Patricia Cosulich doesn't expect many people to actually shoot 1,000 free throws in four hours Friday at Huntington Beach High School.

But even if they come up short, she hopes that number will stay with them.

Patricia, co-president of the World Vision Club, has organized a fundraiser for Hoops of Hope, a nonprofit that raises funds for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. According to the nonprofit, about 1,000 children every hour lose their parents to the disease — so the World Vision Club has asked contestants to shoot for that number Friday.

"The goal is really to put in perspective how much 1,000 is," Patricia said.

The 16-year-old sophomore, who co-founded the World Vision Club in September, got the idea to host the fundraiser several years ago when she heard Hoops of Hope founder Austin Gutwein speak at a Christian conference. Austin, who is Patricia's age, started the charity in 2004 when he was still in elementary school.

Since then, the charity has raised more than $2 million through free-throw contests nationwide, money used toward funding the construction of schools, dormitories, medical testing facilities and more. Event coordinator Julie Dodd said Hoops of Hope has several ongoing projects, including building a computer lab and staff housing at a Zambian high school and adding dormitories to a campus in Kenya.

Over the last seven years, Dodd said, more and more Hoops of Hope fundraisers have sprouted up across the country — an impressive feat, considering that the charity began with a single event in Arizona.

"At the time, we thought that was going to be it," she said. "He was going to do this one thing, and it would be done. But the media got a hold of it."

Patricia said she didn't know how many people would join her event, but noted that members of the public are free to participate and the contest will still be open for registration Friday. Participants will take turns at the gym's six basketball hoops and can either solicit pledges for each basket they make or turn in a flat donation.

In addition to the free throws, the event will feature a slam-dunk contest, pizza and bake sales, a silent auction and a raffle.

Patricia's ultimate goal, she said, is to raise more than $20,000 by the time she graduates.

"If that takes three more hoop shoot-a-thons in the three years I'm here, fine," she said.

If You Go

What: Hoops of Hope

Where: Huntington Beach High School gym, 1905 Main St.

When: 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday

Cost: Free to attend; participants may solicit pledges for free throws or donate a flat rate

Information: (714) 536-2514

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