By Alan Segel
There is absolutely no doubt that Ray Allen is smooth. There is no doubt that he owns one of deadliest jump shots in NBA history. There is no doubt, while appearing quiet, he is one of the most intense competitors on the Celtics. There is also no doubt that Ray Allen’s best moves may indeed come off the court and away from the game of basketball.
Allen is the founder of the Ray of Hope Foundation and he slides into that role as easily as he posts up from behind the three-point line. He is a marksman from long range. However, as Christmas approaches, the mark he hits with deadly accuracy away from the game of basketball connects much more than a ball going through a hoop. The mark he aims at as the Foundation’s leader can have a much greater effect than just playing a game.
When asked which endeavor might give him the most satisfaction though, playing basketball or helping kids, Ray Allen brought forth an answer that connected both. He basically suggests that he could not have one without the other.
“I think you need each one,” said Allen to me last week after his Foundation’s event at the Natick Collection. “I have got to hit a bucket to help the team advance to a situation to be able to win a championship. By winning a championship it gives us so much power.”
Do not mistake the word power with any kind of ego trip. Allen is not like that at all. In fact the rest of answer reflected the kind of thinking individual he is and makes him the kind of player that Celtics fans very much appreciate.
“There are so many watching it puts you on such a level that everything you do people want to support you. They want to make sure you’re successful in the community so you need all of them. You gain the fans support. Then when you get the power you are on such a pedestal you do the right thing by being able to create a foundation.”
The explanation makes perfect sense. However, this foundation was not born out of The Celtics championship in 2008. This foundation was actually born, whether Allen knew it or not, when he was growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was surrounded by a great family structure. He says he had people who helped him where he needed to go. He was born into a military family and saw places as a youngster that many adults never get to experience. He spent time in California, England, Germany, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. He of course was a mainstay for Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut and all of his experiences had him ready to make sound choices once he left the playing fields of Storrs.
“When I got out of college,” says Allen. “There were so many things that I knew made me who I was. So, I wanted to find a way to be able to give back to kids that were like me growing up. Kids, that sometimes didn’t have the means or were able to be put in situations to be able to benefit. So, through the foundation it allows me to be able to get out into the community and help the kids.”
The Foundation was founded in 1997. On its facebook page it says the mission is to assist with sports related and community based programs that provide avenues of opportunity through which our youth can hope to realize their full potential.
It is very obvious that the foundation is having a great effect and that they are reaching a wide range of people. The Natick Collection event drew many. More importantly though they collected 600 presents( far exceeding their goal) that will make some youngsters smile very widely this Christmas season. This all fits with what Ray Allen enjoys doing most of all away from the court—HELPING.
“I am able to get into the community,” said Allen. “I am able to see the faces on the kids when you give them gifts during the holidays. The Thanksgiving dinners we gave away. It creates a connection. You exist, as opposed to just being a figure that’s playing for your team. You have got the city on your chest but it is a great way for any athlete to see and for people to see what you stand for.”
If Ray Allen has his way it will not be just gifts, smiles,money or time that he and the foundation will stand for. Allen has a grand plan.
“What I really want to accomplish is that I want to try to build a youth center over time. It will be so kids can have a place to go for after school activities because too often we find kids after school having nowhere to go. They end up being on the streets and being on the streets is not good for anybody. So that is my long-term vision for it.”
He wants a place he can bus kids to that will have different programs that can help them grow. He wants a place where they can do their homework, have computers to work and study on. He wants a place with tutors and mentors. He wants a place where people can speak to them. He says he wants “a great positive working environment”.
If you have seen Ray Allen play you have a seen a man with great determination to succeed, individually and also in a team environment. Ray Allen is an individual person. However, he is a person that has decided that he does not want to be an island like so many other pro athletes. He wants to be a person who creates an atmosphere of success. It is not a Christmas tale. It is reality and in this season of giving Ray Allen and the Ray of Hope Foundation gives us our greatest gift—-Kids with smiles and a future.
Well done Number 20.
AUDIO: Here is the conversation Ray Allen and I had about his Ray of Hope Foundation.https://seegsboston.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/ray-allen.mp3