Dave Cummings wants to do whatever he can to make sure each and every service member coming home has the best chance possible to recuperate and recover, whether it's to get them walking again -- or rolling. He'll be at the Rollin' Round Robin Classic Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Bell Buckle to continue his quest, a program called Hoops for Heroes.
The New Hampshire father of three has been working since Veterans Day 2009 to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit organization that assists those serving in the armed forces. The organization is building The National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a $60 million, state-of-the art facility dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury, which has sadly become all too common, afflicting hundreds of thousands of returning troops.
"Everything we raise goes to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund," said Cummings. "When I heard about it, maybe four of five years ago, I remember it really striking me how huge of an issue that is. Soldiers coming home with these life-altering injuries -- it's an enormous issue we can't give enough attention to."
Cummings tried to think of a way to help, a way to raise money.
"My only real translatable skill is foul shot shooting," he said, laughing.
Well, that, and he's said to make a mean chocolate chip cookie. But over the months, the basketball idea evolved, and Cummings decided to sink a million foul shots to raise money -- and awareness -- for the cause. Since he himself has pledged $100 per 100,000 baskets sunk, the IFHF is guaranteed at least $1,000, but other donors and sponsors have been joining in.
On that Veterans Day, he sank the first shots at a local school, where his two oldest children attended. The boys served as his official rebounders, keeping him supplied with fresh balls as soon as he fires one off. Since then, rain or shine, sun or snow, he's tried to make at least 1,000 baskets a day. One Veterans Day 2010, he hit the half-million mark, keeping him on track to make his goal by Veterans Day 2011.
He records every shot with his video camera and has even posted them at his web site, www.hoopsforheroes.com.
"If you ever need to get to sleep some night, you can go to the most boring video evidence in the world," he laughed. "Not that anyone would watch a half-million foul shots -- but they're there!"
Cummings usually shoots the baskets outside in his driveway, but cold weather has moved him into gyms on more than one occasion. You know the kinds of places -- the local school gym, the local Y, at Boston TD Garden arena while the Boston Celtics looked on and cheered...
He's made shots at Saratoga Race Park and on the deck of the U.S.S Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier that now serves as a museum in New York Harbor, which is where he met the half-way mark. He's even been featured in USA Today (Oct. 12, 2010) for his fundraising efforts.
Carla Webb, first lady of Bell Buckle and one of the Rollin' Round Robin organizers, heard about Cummings and contacted him. She liked the message he had to share.
"He really is amazing," said Webb. "We're so excited to have him here."
One of the selling points that will bring him to Bell Buckle is the information booths that will be set up during the event. There will be booths from health care providers such as Heritage Medical Center, which is cosponsoring the event with the Bell Buckle Parks and recreation department, as well as other booths offering information about everything from wheelchair basketball to sports safety.
Now, there will be a booth with information about the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
"I'll be bringing some brochures," said Cummings.
The event is a fundraiser for the parks department, but donations can also be made to Hoops for Heroes. The main reason Cumming will be here, though, is to raise awareness as much as funds -- and to shoot some baskets.
"I'll be there for the full day on Saturday," he said. "I think I'm going to shoot for 5,000 made. That's probably about 4 to 4 1/2 hours. "
Since he's coming without his family, Bell Buckle is supplying the rebounders.
"My family has been very supportive," said Cummings, who starts shooting for his daily quota about at 5 a.m. every day. "Before I started this, I talked it over with my wife."
He said it was only fair. He was getting to go out and shoot baskets ("Basically, having fun," he said) while she was inside with their children, two boys, 10 and 8, and one girl, 3.
"I couldn't do this without her," said Cummings.
The Rollin' Round Robin Classic Wheelchair Basketball Tournament will be held Jan. 28-29 at the new gym on the Webb School campus in Bell Buckle. There will be two games played Friday night with free admission. Admission fee for Saturday's day-long event will be $5; all those in wheelchairs admitted free. The event begins at 7 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday.
Besides Cummings' free-throw marathon and the information booths, the event will also feature:
*Games between the University of Alabama men's and women's teams, the Shepherd Center team; and the Nashville Music City Lightning
*Musical entertainment, including one song performed by the country music group SHeDAISY around noon and the performances from musician Kyle Kraft, the USMC Color Guard and the Cascade High School Cheerleaders
*A 'Shoot the Hoops' contest with a $1,000 prize
*Exhibition games, with local dignitaries getting undignified as they try to take on the wheelchair basketball experts
*$5 plate lunches by the Bell Buckle Café
*Snack concessions all day
*Door prizes all day
For more information about the Rollin' Round Robin, go to www.bellbucklepark.info.