Harold Sampson uses his upcoming 76th birthday to promote healthy living and participation at his Broomall synagogue.
Harold Sampson is a 76er.
Not the kind dunking balls at the Wells Fargo Center with occasional effectiveness — though he is quite a fan of the team.
The Marple resident turns 76 on Jan. 23 and who better to invite to his party than the 76ers — the basketball kind — and thousands of his closest friends to watch him blow out his candles (without the team, hopefully, suffering another blowout).
The 76ers are honoring the longtime season-ticket holder at the Jan. 23 home game against the Toronto Raptors.
Longtime suffering as a fan — this is Sampson’s 39th year as a season-ticket holder — does not make him a mitzvah hero, however. What it does show is his persistence against the odds and his commitment to take a walk on the wild side to draw attention to making his corner of the world a better place.
To that end, he's planning to walk the 18 miles from his neighborhood to the basketball game.
“It’s actually 15 1/2 miles, but I’m adding another 2 1/2 miles to the [route] to make it an even 18, chai, since Judaism is important to me," Sampson says.
The goal? “To create an aura, a positive image that someone who is 76 can do such a thing in the heart of winter.”
He's always battling stereotypes; indeed, he sets his calendar by it: “From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014, I walked 1,800 miles.”
It’s all part of his game plan, says the chronological 76er, to help others by showing “the link between the body and the soul,” to exercise their right to a good, healthy life by taking care of their health and practicing tzedakah.
“I want to give others encouragement to do the right thing; and the better care you take of yourself, physically and spiritually, the better the probability that good things will come.”
That long-range view has also encouraged the certified public accountant in one of his other major pursuits: The construction of a paper clip sculpture at his synagogue, Congregation Beth El-Ner Tamid in Broomall. The sculpture is a local reminder of the Whitwell (Tenn.) Middle School students who collected 6 million paperclips to commemorate the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust. That numerical achievement, which led to the making of the Paper Clips documentary, inspired Sampson to enjoin his synagogue to build the art work on its front lawn.
But then, Beth El-Ner Tamid has always been front and center in Sampson's life. So why when congregants suggested a luncheon this weekend in honor of his upcoming birthday, he asked to expand the celebration to include other congregrants with recent birthdays — Dr. Andy Rosenfeld, turning 60; Jerome Teres, 70; Arnold Galer, 70 — so that more members will show up for the event and, hopefully, stay for services.
“I would like to see 276 people attend this luncheon,” in support of the 276 years lived by the honorees, Sampson says. “It’s all about giving your presence — not presents."
There will be no fundraising, just fun, he assures.
“Don’t worry about the sermon, who’s going to be there — just come because you want to come and enjoy.”
Prospects for a good, meaningful time? A slam dunk, says the soon-to-be 76er.