A good majority of professional athletes either give to charity or form their own foundations. That is nothing new. And these foundations are either actively attempting to accomplish their goals, or sit around and wait to be asked what to do next.
Cleveland tight end Austin Hooper’s charity arm is the former.
During the Browns-Tennessee Titans game, his foundation will be working. And after the game, one aspect of the actual contest itself will become property of a lucky Browns’ fan. His custom painted cleats will be auctioned off during this pivotal game in Cleveland’s season with the Titans in which both clubs are 8-3-0 and have post-season implications.
But, this is just one aspect of Hooper’s charitable business. During the week of December 4-9, the Austin Hooper Foundation will host an online raffle and auction to raise funds for OhioGuidestone’s Foster Care programming.
Some athletes perform charitable work just because and are involved in only one field or whatever they feel like taking on during their time off. Some are very involved such as Jarvis Landry. His annual softball game raises funds for The Lake Health Foundation.
Hooper’s passion involves kids – specifically foster children.
“We are so grateful for Austin and his incredible family,” said Arian May, Advancement Officer at OhioGuidestone. “Austin has a passion to serve the foster care community and make a lasting difference in the lives of the children and families we serve.”
Hooper was signed as a free agent this past off-season after a four-year career in Atlanta. The position of tight end was highlighted as a critical need area for the Browns moving into the 2020 season. He was named to the Pro Bowl his final two seasons in Atlanta and was considered the top free agent tight end on the market.
He is a California native which makes it all the more remarkable that he is willing to help those in Ohio rather than make his presence more known in the region in which he grew up. Plus, this is only his first year in Cleveland. It’s not like he has been playing here for years and fell in love with the area and then decided to contribute. The efforts his foundation is focusing on is challenging the region.
All raffle and auction items including the game-used cleats are available online only. Anyone interested must register first at:
“Austin has a tremendous passion for serving the foster care community. We are so grateful for his selfless, humility and generosity,” May added. “He truly is one-of-a-kind.”
As soon as the Browns-Titans game is over, his cleats will come off, he will then autograph them and then his foundation will contact whomever won the auction. Then, they will be shipped in whatever condition that they came off his feet.
How did Hooper choose this type of charitable event and why this? Why these type of kids?
It seems at an early age growing up in San Ramon, California, Hooper wanted to change the lives for foster children; in particular those aging out of the system. Maybe it was just timing coming to Cleveland to find the right charitable partner such as OhioGuidestone.
The game-worn cleats
Hooper’s cleats that he will wear against the Titans will be involved in a live auction while the game is going on. At the conclusion, he will sign them and then they will be shipped to the lucky winner.
But there is more. These aren’t simply standard football cleats you can purchase at your local sporting goods outlet. These are hand-painted custom cleats for the “My Cause My Cleats” program sponsored by the NFL. And get this, the artist is a Cleveland native.
Jonathan Hrusovsky owns Hrusovsky’s Custom Kicks and his job is to paint whatever on whatever you are wearing on your feet. Sneakers are his specialty. In the case of the Browns-Titans game, it just happens to be Austin Hooper’s cleats.
Hrusovsky went to North Royalton High School and has designed and painted numerous professional athletes’ cleats including Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ David Peralta. Hooper is his first NFL guy.
May and Hrusovsky knew each other in another previous project that never came to fruition. Once this concept became a reality, a meeting was set up by May with Hooper’s mother Lillian – who is also the foundation’s executive director – to get with Hrusovsky in order to discuss the cleats and design aspects.
Hooper wears the Vapor Untouchable series from Nike. But instead of an array of graphics, this pair arrived solid white with a single black Nike swoosh. Hrusovsky’s process just to get the cleats ready for painting is quite extensive.
The material used for the shell of the shoe is synthetic leather while the inner portions are mainly cotton with a sewn-in tongue. There is a thin membrane on the shoe that helps protect the integrity and durability because after all, it is used in sporting events. To remove the membrane, Hrusovsky used cotton balls soaked in acetone and rubbed the synthetic leather surface until the semi-gloss shine was gone and more of a matte finish.
Next, he had to prep the surface for paint adhesion. Hrusovsky used 400 grit sandpaper and lightly scratched the surface areas. Then he painted the black swoosh white, followed by a thorough dusting and cleaning. Now, there are two completely workable white shoe surfaces ready to be painted.
The design of the shoe is a color scheme of light blue and royal blue. These are the colors of the “Foster Hope for the Future” logo. About 10-15 kids were given the task of drawing what made them happy. Those drawings ultimately became the design aspects of the cleats themselves.
Hrusovsky hand-drew in pencil their designs onto each shoe. Even the NFL shield is depicted among various colors.
The frontal toe area of each cleat was the first to get a painted design. On the shoe sides are the Austin Hooper Foundation logo whereas the other shoe has the Ohio Guidestone logo. From there, different colors were added as needed.
The majority of the paint process was done with an airbrush. Hrusovsky used an Iwata Eclipse Series unit with a .35 needle. The other areas and small details were brushed by hand. There are portions of each cleat that have paint layering. Next, three coats of a satin finish lacquer was applied in order to get the cleats back to their original finish.
From start to finish, the process took approximately 15 hours.
So, if you are watching the game and see a guy wearing blue shoes with his orange and brown uniform, it’s okay.
In fact, it is helping a child.