In 10 days, basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry will make his first trip to Israel, to do what he is best known for, shooting some hoops, and to raise money for Migdal Ohr, an agency in northern Israel that provides schooling, housing, and social services for 6,500 immigrant, orphaned, and impoverished youth.
Mr. Barry, 64, will participate in basketball clinics for more than a thousand children in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Lower Galilee as a paid spokesman of the New York-based American Friends of Migdal Ohr, which raises $3 million to $4 million annually for the parent organization.
"I've been around the world, but not to Israel. I am really excited about the opportunity to see the Holy Land, and to help raise funds for an unbelievable cause with such great people," Mr. Barry said in a recent interview.
A fellow Hall of Famer, Julius Erving, will also be a paid spokesman on the trip.
To prepare for the trip, Mr. Barry, who grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., and now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been reading about Israel. Having played on underdog teams throughout his NBA career, he said he relates to Israel's embattled history.
"It makes you stronger, more determined. Nobody enjoys being told, 'You cannot do this, you can't do that.' It just gives you more will. You just want to prove them wrong," Mr. Barry said.
As the only player ever to lead the NCAA, the NBA, and the ABA in scoring, he doesn't need to do much preparation for the basketball clinics. In addition to his history as a player, he has in recent years participated in hundreds of clinics organized by the NBA.
"I'm all about kids," Mr. Barry said.
In fact, he has six children, four of whom have played basketball professionally, and one of whom, Canyon, 14, will be going with him to Israel.
He said he knows how valuable playing team sports can be for children.
"It keeps kids out of trouble, and it teaches them perseverance, unselfishness, and dedication," Mr. Barry said. "These are skills that are important on a sports team, but also in business."
On his recent visit to New York, Mr. Barry, who is of Irish, English, French, and Lithuanian descent, spent an afternoon touring the Museum of Jewish Heritage and learning more about Migdal Ohr.
One fact that impressed him is that 70% of the Migdal Ohr staff are former recipients of Migdal Ohr services.
He expressed regret that he can't play basketball today, when players are given multimillion-dollar contracts. "Then I'd be able to support this effort monetarily," he said. "But what I can do is try to make more people aware of the organization, regardless of whether they're Jewish." He added that he had already asked many of his Jewish friends to contribute.
The chairman of the American Friends of Migdal Ohr, Max Thurm, voiced his approval of the decision to bring Mr. Barry on board. "May every American charitable organization be blessed to have such a mensch on their team," Mr. Thurm said.
Mr. Barry replied, "I know mensch is a good word. And I know I don't want to be a kvetch."
Raised Catholic and now a member of the United Methodist Church, Mr. Barry said he has particular interest in religious sites. "To know I'm going to be standing somewhere where Jesus may have been standing is pretty unbelievable," he said.
He also said he is eager to meet the founder of Migdal Ohr, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. Migdal Ohr runs seven toddler day care centers, 18 kindergartens, and 15 elementary and high schools. Three thousand children live permanently in campus dormitories, and another 1,000 children live with foster parents in Migdal Ohr's Foster Village.
The idea for the trip came to the executive vice president of American Friends of Migdal Ohr, Robert Katz, after he saw the success of an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden in October between the Knicks and Maccabi Tel Aviv. It raised more than $1 million.
Mr. Katz hopes this trip will also raise funds: He is offering slots to American patrons to travel with Mr. Barry and Mr. Erving, for a suggested donation of $25,000.