BAXTER - When Den and Paula Lofstrom spoke about their work building hospitals in Tanzania at Paul Augustinack's confirmation class at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter, it caught the 13-year-old's attention.
But it was the Lofstroms' story of a young boy suffering from a tumor and unable to get the help he needed because his family lacked money that pushed Paul into action.
He couldn't go to Tanzania himself, so Paul did the next best thing - he started a fundraiser for the Lofstroms' medical mission International Health Partners. His idea was to sell beaded bracelets that literally contained a message of "Hope."
Family: His dad, Gus; his mom, Ginger; a sister, Megan; and a brother, Tony.
School: Seventh grade at Forestview Middle School.
Favorite television show: After thinking on it for a while, he said ESPN, for either baseball or football. He's a fan of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings.
What will happen first, Twins win the World Series or Vikings win the Super Bowl: With Brett Favre, the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, he said, especially after we traded (Johan) Santana away.
Hobbies: He plays hockey, baseball and football; likes to snowboard and skateboard; plays the saxophone; helping his dad edit video; and was just elected to the student council at Forestview Middle School.
Favorite class: He likes multimedia, history and math, a skill he inherited from his mother.
Favorite vacation: Big Sky, Mont., where he was able to ski and snowboard. I think the best part was when he got to go up on the peak and look off the mountain, he said. Or when we drove out of Billings and saw the mountains.
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The Lofstroms spoke at the church on Oct. 21. Paul made only 50 bracelets at first, selling them about two weeks before Thanksgiving. When they sold out right away, he decided to make more, and almost two months later he has made 350 to 375 of the bracelets, which he sells for $5 at his church.
Paul Augustinack, 13, displayed the hope bracelets he's selling for $5 apiece at Lord of Life Lutheran Church to raise funds for International Health Partners, a medical mission in Tanzania. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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"I always want to help," Paul said. "I thought it would be really fun to raise money, to do that from our church."
The bracelets have been popular. One man bought 11 after church one day, and though Paul planned to only sell them through Christmas, his dad, Steve "Gus" Augustinack, said they will keep making them as long as people still want them.
"He has all the initiative," Gus Augustinack said of his son. "His mother (Ginger) and I are both extremely proud to hear about his dreams and the persistence he has to follow through."
Paul has not been alone in his endeavor. He's had help from family, friend and others in putting together the bracelets. He especially credits fellow Lord of Life member Gail Brecht for donating beads for the bracelets and her time tying them together.
"I owe her a lot of credit," Paul said. "Without her, I probably wouldn't have been able to do anything like this."
Paul's pastor at Lord of Life, Erika Nilsen, was impressed by his drive.
"It was inspired," Nilsen said. "He was so moved by the story of these medical missionaries, and the plight of the people they served. It was kind of like he couldn't not do something."
Nilsen said Paul's effort has inspired people throughout the church.
"There's one woman who bought bracelet right away and said, 'I am going to wear this as a reminder of all those ideas that come into my mind that I haven't acted on. This will give me hope to act on some of those inspirations in my own life,'" Nilsen said. "He's blessing the community of Tanzania but I think he's also blessed individuals through his vision in countless ways. That "Hope" word took on lots of meaning for lots of people."
So far, Paul has raised $1,426 for International Health Partners. When he is old enough, he'd like to do a mission trip to Tanzania.
"That would really be fun to go to Africa and help build and stuff. I think it would be fun to go anywhere to help people out," Paul said.
Anyone interested in purchasing Paul's bracelets should call Lord of Life Lutheran Church at 828-9374.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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