Chandler man shoots free throws to help food pantry
CHANDLER -- For a grueling 24 hours, Tom Booth shoots thousands of free throws. It's his way of using his athletic talent to raise money for charities. It has become a community attraction with hundreds of people turning out to watch and donate.
When Booth walks onto the basketball court at 6 a.m. Friday to begin his third annual 24-hour marathon free throw session, this year it is expected to be the biggest since he started.
Although Booth will shoot free throws until 6 a.m. Saturday, a community event to cheer him on will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday
Brookshires will provide free food for spectators. There will be bounce houses for children and tables and chairs for people to sit and chat and a place to drop money off for charity.
"Everybody can come out and have a good time," Booth said. It will just be a good place to hang out and there will be a good atmosphere."
The event, called "Free Throws for Souls," will be in the gymnasium of Chandler First Assembly of God.
Donors are committing to contribute however much they wish for each free throw that Booth makes the goal.
Another way that the event raises money is that businesses have contributed $100 to charity to be allowed to put up a sign or banner or they have contributed at least $150 in exchange for being allowed to set up booths advertising their products. Some have donated more.
Booth's goal is to successfully shoot at least 13,000 free throws and raise $20,000.
Last year, the event raised "right at $11,000," and he made 12,393 free throws out of 19,000 shots, or about 65 percent, Booth said. That was up from $6,000 raised the first year.
If someone pledged a penny per shot last year, their donation amounted to $123.93.
All of the money raised is split between the Chandler food pantry named God's Open Hands and support for Missionary John Williamson, who conducts Christian summer sports camps for children in the Ukraine.
Booth said he got started shooting free throws to raise money for charity after reading a magazine article about a guy who does it. It hit him that I Peter 4:10 talks in the Bible about using gifts for the glory of God and it occurred to him that he could shoot free throws like the guy in the magazine article to raise money for charity.
"That's where I really came up with all this. I've got a talent for shooting free throws," Booth said.
Booth, 41, has played basketball since he was 8 years old. He played at Temple High School, Temple Junior College and the University of Southern Main and then coached basketball two years at Temple Junior College.
Explaining why he decided to throw free throws for charity, Booth said he was "touched" when he heard a missionary speak and wanted to help him reach his goals with summer sports camps and he also wanted to help the God's Open Hands food pantry be able to hand out food to needy people.
Booth said he will probably shoot the first three or four hours without a break. Then he will shoot for 50 or 55 minutes and take a five or 10-minute break, come back and shoot another 50 or 55 minutes.
Booth said he will probably have two people standing underneath the goal to rebound the ball to a person standing next to him who will hand the ball to him to shoot. "I'll have two balls going at the same time," Booth said. "It will be a constant back and forth. I don't have to worry about catching the ball or rebounding the ball."
The first three hours he will probably shoot right-handed, Booth said. "Then I will switch to the left hand and then I will start alternating right and left hands. Probably about 14 hours into it, I will start shooting underhanded for the last six or seven hours."
He added, "You kind of get the rhythm going and I give all the glory to God. Without him, I couldn't be able to do what I do."
Booth acknowledged shooting free throws for 24 hours is tiring and that his body is sore for weeks afterward.
But his pain and soreness is nothing like what Jesus went through on the cross, Booth said.
"I look at it this way," Booth said. "There's people in a lot worse situation than I am and whatever pain that I go through in that 24 hours is nothing compared to what they go through everyday ... I've just been very blessed and I'm very fortunate that I've got a talent that I can help bring (in) money to help them at the food pantry and with John Williams (the missionary)."
The free throw attraction "has grown beyond my wildest imagination. The first year there was hardly anybody here. Last year, the place was packed with people. It had turned into a big community event," Booth said.