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Josh Hutcherson's family might be happy that he's become such a successful actor, but he says they're more proud of the work he's doing to defend gay rights.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old Hunger Games star will become the youngest person ever to receive the Vanguard prize at the GLAAD Media Awards. He's receiving the honor because he has become one of the most prominent advocates in the fight for LGBT rights and has worked closely with best friend Avan Jogia's Straight But Not Narrow organization for gay teens and their heterosexual allies.
The fight for gay right hits close to home for Hutcherson, who had two gay uncles he never got to know because they died of AIDS during the height of the epidemic. "They were in their early 30s, in great shape, but unfortunately they were taken away from us too soon," he tells E! Online. "Both passed away at about the time I was born."
It helps that Hutcherson was raised in a very accepting household. He says that his mother has always been an advocate of LGBT rights, and "for me it's always been a part of my soul." That's why he's taken such an interest in Straight But Not Narrow, and why he's worked hard enough in the community to earn himself a GLAAD award.
Even with The Hunger Games ranking as the number one movie of the year (so far), Hutcherson prides himself upon his outreach work.
"This is what my family is most proud of, and the same for me," Hutcherson says. "Acting is one thing, but actually trying to change the world and the way people think to make people's lives better? That's the stuff I'm most proud of."
When asked by E! if he thinks his uncles are looking down on him, he replies: "I'm not a religious person in that sense. But at the same time I do believe in some sort of something, just not sure exactly. But yeah, I'd like to think that they see what I'm doing and that they're proud of me."
Hutcherson says that the work he's done with Straight But Not Narrow has been very rewarding, and recalls one letter from a 14-year-old high school freshman in Florida that he found particularly touching.
"He was in this very right wing and religious sort of area and he sent a letter saying how SBNN changed his life and how he was able to feel more comfortable coming out to his friends," Hutcherson says. "I was almost bawling reading it. That makes all our work worth it."