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November 11, 2011

I think we all know that it’s never really been about the foul shots. It’s always been about the gratitude.

It’s been about saying thank you, in our own small way, for the kinds of sacrifices that many of us – myself certainly included – never had to endure.

It’s been about doing our small part for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and its mission of serving our nation’s injured Veterans.

It’s been about perfect strangers, like the Winders family and Gill family and Earl family, and Chris Nolan and Jesse Ander and Chris DeBlois, who showed up at the gym or the house to help rebound, to help us say thank you.

It’s been about our new friends in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and New Albany, Indiana, who invited us to their parts of the world to convey that thank you.

It’s been about a boy with autism who decided to make our project the theme of his bar mitzvah so that he could join us in that thank you.

It’s been about a basketball team in Cheney, Kansas; and Miss May’s third-graders; and the Helping Hoops For Heroes team at Sea Road School in Kennebunk, Maine; one dollar at a time, joining in our thank you.

It’s been about the students that I’ve had the opportunity to visit with over the past couple of years, and about all the hands that go up when they’re asked who has had family members serve. And it’s been about the ear-shattering THANK YOU that we let fly together upon pointing to the American flag.

It’s been about a neighbor whose political differences with us didn’t prevent him from spending part of an afternoon with Heather and me, making a donation, telling us about his experiences in Vietnam and since, and allowing us to say thank you to him.

It’s been about a Rhode Island mom who, for her 57th birthday, asked her son to come rebound with us for an evening, for which she pledged to contribute $1 per made shot.

It’s been about a Tennessee man who donated the money raised from his annual attempt at driving 21 states in one day to Hoops For Heroes.

It’s been about a fifth-grader who spent the last two years literally filling in a million tiny little squares with a red colored pencil to help us measure our progress.

It’s been about a South Carolina soldier’s wife who set aside her Starbucks habit (or at least curbed it somewhat) in order to make her donation, like clockwork, the first of every month.

It’s been about a guy who decided at about the halfway point of this project that he wanted to help out by assisting on 50,000 of these made shots … and got to more than 52,000 instead.

It’s been about a guy who decided to raise money for the cause by attempting to break the New Hampshire north-to-south cycling record – and beating it by more than an hour – while raising $1,500 for the cause.

It’s been about hundreds of notes of encouragement, about additional hundreds of hands collecting rebounds and assists on the basketball court, about well over a thousand individual contributions from all over the country, ranging from loose change to $5 checks to one individual donation of $2,500.

So many men and women and boys and girls, contributing in some way, large or small, to this, our collective thank you. I’d love to name them all, but I’m happy to say that we simply wouldn’t have time.

It’s been about a wife, The Beautiful Heth, and three kids who understood that use of the word “sacrifice” is not to be wasted on a guy who gets to play basketball every day for two years … or even on his family.

And it’s been about the Decoteaus – Mark, Nancy, Andrew and Maddie – who with incredible dignity and grace have allowed their unfathomable loss to serve as this effort’s most profound inspiration.

In the broadest sense, it’s been about the sentiment best conveyed in the following words, which were spoken by Mr. Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, about a year and a half ago, at the dedication of the Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Maryland.

This is what Mr. Fisher said:

“Those who wear the uniform of this great land are our sons and our daughters, our mothers and our fathers. When they raise their right hand and pledge to defend us against enemies foreign and domestic, with that comes a contract with this nation and with each one of us, that we take care of them when they serve, and long after their service is done. And how well we meet that responsibility is the measure of us as a nation. This … is not charity. It is our duty. It is a responsibility from which we cannot hide.”

I agree absolutely with all that Mr. Fisher said, with the exception of one small detail. We CAN hide, if we so choose, from that responsibility. I know, because I spent the majority of my life doing just that … Free country, right?

But today, we are here, saying thank you in unison. Today, we celebrate that service and we honor our side of that contract. Today, we choose – in our own small way – not to hide from that responsibility.

When Bruce Springsteen wrote “The Rising” in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he was singing literally of the firefighters who ran up those stairs, into those burning towers … but I’m pretty sure he was also singing of each one of us, of what he believed we would need to do, of what he believed we would need to become.

He was asking us to rise, individually and as one.

As you know, this has never been about the guy who has been lucky enough to spend his days playing. It has been about the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way – and the families that have supported them – so that we may continue to play.

It has never been about the one million shots that I have had the privilege to make. It has always been, and I expect will continue to be, about the gratitude that we have been privileged to share.

May we continue to rise.

One million shots. Endless gratitude.

Happy Veterans Day.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to school

I’ve talked a lot over the past two years about Hoops For Heroes being a collective thank you to Veterans and service men and women. At its core, that’s what I’ve always hoped it would become.

For the last week, more than any other week, that’s exactly what it was. And then some.

We were invited to attend a Veterans Day assembly at Andover Elementary Middle School last Wednesday, where I spoke about HFH and was otherwise blown away at the proceedings. Every single student got involved. They sang. They read essays and poetry. They led the Pledge of Allegiance. They hosted a “Veterans Cafe.” They got a motivational pick-me-up from their old pal, Naval Officer Charlie Giles from New London, who instructed: “Don’t wait to be asked to help. Just help.” Best of all, they did it all in front of the posted colors and more than 30 local Veterans.

I participated by saying a few words about my project and then making a rather clumsy 100 foul shots with the perfectly able hands of Reilly Walsh, Ben Yusko, Elizabeth LaBrie and Alyssa Smith, and after the festivities I stuck around with their fellow students, Adrian Bolte, Logan Marcus, Keith Davis, Riley Anderson, Brandon Jackson, Bill Leber and Max Barrett, to make the last of our 1,000 for the day.

On Thursday, it was off to Kennebunk, Maine, where a good friend from high school, Erin (Crowley) Neale, is the Gifted and Talented teacher (of which she is both) at Sea Road School, and let me just say this: Wow. The fourth- and fifth-graders there were ready. It was not a Veterans Day assembly, per se, but it was all about gratitude. For the prior few weeks, they had been talking and learning about Hoops For Heroes, and they had a project of their own, “Helping Hoops For Heroes,” by which participating students picked their own talent and tried to raise a little money around it by soliciting donations from friends, family members and neighbors.

I arrived to a gym wrapped halfway around with artwork, and it was only after a little prompting that I realized that each piece of art was comprised of grids: colored-in squares, tiny squares — a million tiny, colored-in squares. Absolutely amazing.

So one group at a time, we talked about Veterans, we talked about respect, we talked about the daily reminder of service and sacrifice, and we talked about …

“THAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU!” … which is what they helped me to scream, at the top of our lungs, each time I pointed to the American flag. And let me just tell you, these were not large groups, but I’m pretty sure they came close to blowing the roof off the joint. As well they should have.

We shot some foul shots, too — a couple hundred made per group, then finished up to 1,000 sometime in the early afternoon.

Thanks to my buddy and sixth-grade teacher Tamy Anderson and her principal Tom Sica, Rundlett Middle School in Concord came next — on Friday, Nov. 4 — and just between us friends, let me admit to you that this was the stop that had caused me the most sleepless nights in the week before.

I mean, I remember what I was like in seventh and eighth grade, and it was not pretty. Get 400 12-year-old me’s into a gymnasium, and frankly, that’s not a gathering the 44-year-old me wants to be a part of.

But once again, I was wrong. They could not have possibly been more respectful.

The message at Rundlett Middle School, as part of their recently initiated PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program, is P.R.I.D.E., an acronym for Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline and Excellence. I was there to cheer them on for that endeavor, talk about my own thoughts on each of our “personal scoreboards” (were you a plus or a minus today?), tell them about Hoops For Heroes, and once again shoot a few foul shots.

They were loud when I prompted them to be loud (“THAAAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOOU!”), attentive when it was appropriate to be attentive, and clearly mindful of the Veterans-specific message I was there to deliver. Yet again, well over half the students raised their hands when I asked who had a Veteran or active soldier in the family.

I was a pretty lousy junior high kid. These kids were the opposite of the junior high me. On the way out, I went to Mrs. Anderson’s room to say thank you, and on the way there I went through a hallway full of sixth-graders. I think I hugged just about every one of them.

Finally, on Monday, it was time to visit my pal Dustin Rayno, who’s been filling out a million-square grid of his own for the past two years, at the school of my mom — Sutton Central — as part of its annual Veterans Day assembly.

Here was the deal at the SCS event: I followed the kids … and there was no following those kids.

As I told them, if I delivered my message 1,000 times, it would never be as poignant as theirs.

In the middle of the all-purpose room, in the middle of these students, rested a small table, set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing.

And then, the students began to move, as Nicole Densmore, the music teacher and producer of the event, orchestrated and narrated.

A white tablecloth, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to serve. A single red rose, signifying the blood they may have shed in sacrifice, and to remind us of the family and friends of our missing comrades, who keep faith, while awaiting their return. A red ribbon on the vase, representing the red ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who wish for their happy return. A slice of lemon on the plate, reminding us of the bitterness of longing for the soldier. Salt, sprinkled on the plate, reminding us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait. An inverted glass, as they cannot toast with us. A candle, representing the light of hope. And the American Flag, reminding us of their service.

Local Veterans sat and watched. It was a beautiful thing.

I said my piece. The kids and I screamed “THAAAAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOOU!”  I suggested that they practice saying those words, in honor of Veterans, each and every day … just not so loudly.

It was another darned cool day.

You know, over the past two years, the HFH message has been delivered in a number of ways, with the primary vehicle for distribution being electronics. Thank goodness for Facebook and its cousins, right? As we all know, there’s no better way, today, to get communications quantity than the never-ending e-stream.

If I want quality, though, I’ll unplug for a minute. I’ll shake the hand of a Veteran in Andover and tell him thank you where he can hear it. I’ll high-five a bunch of kids in Kennebunk, and hug a hallway full of sixth-graders in Concord. I’ll borrow that red colored pencil and help Dustin Rayno fill in a few of those little squares.

I’ve always hoped this project would be about gratitude, and I believe it has held up in that way, which is good. When that gratitude comes in the form of a genuine human connection, all the better.

By that scoreboard, this past week was as better as better gets.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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November 6: Chris and Katherine

Chris was in a good mood because his alma mater, Louisiana State University, had remained atop the college football world the night before by beating Alabama, 9-6 — on the road, no less.

Katherine was in a good mood because — well, look at her, she’s clearly a pretty happy person, AND because she was, at the time of our visit, one day removed from heading back to a world of warmth in West Palm Beach. Not that she doesn’t love visiting, of course, but c’mon … 13 inches of snow in October?

My point is that it was a happy day of shooting, made all the more happy by the fact that those beautiful Lorio kids were there to join us. That’s Reagan up there. She’s got a twin sister, Carly, who’s just as cute. Seriously. And their baby brother Brendan is in the same Carter’s commercial category. (That was a lot of unintended alliteration.)

So happily, we connected on 1,000 more foul shots, bringing the overall total to 996,007 down, 3,993 to go. And five days left to do it.

Smile!

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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November 5: Beans and Jandrue

Ever seen Superman and Batman in the same room together? I haven’t. But now I’ve seen Bob Jandrue and Jim Bean in the same gymnasium, which I have to consider to be the Hoops For Heroes equivalent.

Two rebounding forces of nature, are they: Bob for his assistance-persistence despite the obvious geographical challenge posed by living a couple hours away; Jim for his dogged pursuit of 50,000 assists in this project … a number which has now climbed to 52,000.

So there we were, along with a rebounding machine in his own right, Jim’s son Seth (42,000-ish?) … firing away toward 2,000 more on Saturday afternoon. When Bob’s former student Krista Rand showed up toward the end to lend her skills, the day was made complete.

Thanks for allowing those worlds to collide, men. We’re under the 5,000 mark to go … 995,007 down, 4,993 left, and six days to do it.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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October 29: Fifty grand!

Do you get the photo? Five. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.

We were at about the midway point of this project — you know, 500,000 down, 500,000 to go — when Mr. James Bean said he planned to assist on 50,000 of these things.  Seemed earnest enough, but truly I can’t say that I believed him.  That’s, like, a full 10 percent of what we had left.

I’ll be damned.  On October 29, with Bailey Ellsworth, Seth and Jim Bean doing the legwork, we put 2,000 more in the books to reach 988,007 altogether … and a total of five-oh-oh-oh-oh for Big James.

While we’re talking about it, I suppose it’s no small feat that Seth Bean (who’ll drop a 3-pointer or two on you, by the way) has assisted on about 40,000 of his own.  Quite a father-son tandem we’ve got here, and they’ll be collecting a few more in Springfield a few days from now, too.

Huge thanks, Bean boys.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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October 27: Boys and Girls Club of Manchester

Each time I step into the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester, I get a brand new appreciation for Things That Are Good.

The latest flock of rebounders was a mostly junior-sized version: Juan Trinidad, Colin Hines, Daniel Infante, Kevin Avery, Richard Shout, Kai Crawford,Griffin McDonough, Ding Niyang, Mason Grimard, Gunnar Ouellette,
Nicole Henry, Natalee Henry, Alexis Glaude, Carlos Marsach, Javen Morse, Jaylen Leroy, Dylan Feliciano and
Antonio Feliciano.

And it was once again orchestrated by Natalie Jutras, the B&G Club Athletic Director who — it is obvious in only an hour’s worth of time as a witness — runs the gym with the perfectly deft combination of iron-fisted authority and motherly love.

It’s an amazing place, and I’m a lucky guy to have been invited.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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October 25: Terri and Gerry Gill

Gerry Gill of neighboring Deerfield was in the house again, only this time each family added another generation to the festivities. Gerry’s mom jumped in to help with the rebounding chores, and Li’l No (a.k.a. Noah David Cummings) joined us at the ECS gym to get a little dribbling practice in.

It was a solid 1,000 made free throws, after which Gerry informed me that he remains an avid Power Rangers fan, and that whereas 20 months ago we had established that I would be referred to as “Wolf” and he would be “Gold,” there was to be a new nickname bestowed: Li’l No is now officially Wolf Jr.

Thanks, Gold (and Gold Sr.) … That’s now 983,007 down, 16,993 to go to 1 million made foul shots.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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October 23 with Neal and Ryan

It is my eyes, or is that picture way, way, way out of focus?

Neal and Ryan Burns, however, seem to never be unfocused, and it was with great pleasure that we came together about a week ago — for the first time since Valentine’s Day 2010 (see below) — for an 11th-hour shooting session.

Ryan, a fellow sixth-grader to Noah at Epsom Central School, is the kid who does a whole lot of everything — sports, music, drama, technology, Scouts are what comes to mind, although there’s more — and it was Ryan who was solely responsible way back when for the life-changing realization that there is an iPod auxiliary cord in the gym that would allow us to put music to these days of shooting. That’s called a Burns-inspired epiphany.

Ryan is also a kid who (and I may have said this before) always looks like he knows something that you don’t. And he probably does.

On this particular morning, the younger Burns was responsible for the exchanges, catching the passes from the older Burns and handing them over to me for what I would guess was about 1,100 shots — exactly 1,000 of which went through: 981,007 down, 18,993 to go to 1 million made foul shots.

Always a pleasure, Neal and Ryan. Thanks again.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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October 21 at NHTI

Good thing there are only a couple weeks left in this project, because given enough time, I’m certain that I would show up for one of these shooting gigs having forgotten at least one of my feet. In that context, it’s really no big deal that I’ve developed a recent habit of merely forgetting my sneakers.

It happened again on a recent trip to the Goldie Crocker Wellness Center at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, where my old pal and NHTI Coach Paul Hogan invited me to shoot with his team during a afternoon practice on October 21. So rather than pathetically ask if anyone had a pair of shoes I could wear, I simply strutted out to the foul line in a pair of socks, almost as if that’s just the routine … and nobody even looked twice.

This NHTI men’s basketball program, under Coach Hogan, has developed quite a national reputation in his 12 years at the school, including a United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II National Championship in 2005. Keep in mind, this is a two-year school at which many players only stick around for one before moving along, so it’s no small task to develop continuity over a period of years. But Coach Hogan, who doubles as the athletic director, has done it.

His secret? Didn’t tell me.

What he did do, though, was permit his players to join me, despite my shoelessness. They came three at a time, four shifts, 250 made free throws per shift. In just about 40 minutes, we were through 1,000 more … and there were two new sweaty footprints on the Crocker Center gym floor.

Thanks Coach, and thanks to Sander Vanderveen (7-foot-2, by the way), Josh Morgan, Peralt Annulysse, Ben Hill, Ryan Sweeney, Tyler Yeaton, Brendan Norton, Satae Ayers, Patrick Lavin, Greg Lablond, Jackson Riel, Zach Stevens and Bobby Shatinsky. We’re at 979,007 down, 20,993 to go to 1 million made foul shots.

For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.


 

 

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Join us at the Hall of Fame: Nov. 11, 2011

“A Million Thanks”

Please join Hoops For Heroes at the culmination of our two-year, collective Thank You to Veterans and service men and women on Veterans Day — November 11, 2011 — at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The final 1,000 made free throws are scheduled to begin shortly after 9 a.m., to conclude with No. 1 million soon after 11 a.m.

[If anyone is interested in staying in Springfield the night before, please contact me at dave@hoopsforheroes.com, as there are a limited number of rooms in the area on hold.]

The event is open to the public at regular Hall of Fame admission prices: $16.99 for adults; $13.99 for seniors (ages 65 and above); $11.99 for ages 5-15; and free for children 4 and under.

And this great news: Thanks to the generosity of Hall of Fame President John Doleva, we are pleased to announce that half of the day’s Hall proceeds will go to our beneficiary, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

So please join us, and bring a friend, and help to share our message of endless gratitude. As always …

Every shot made shall serve as a reminder of the reverence
due those who have honored us with their selfless service to this country.
Every dollar raised shall serve to benefit those who now suffer for that sacrifice. 
To all Veterans, though it will never be enough, this is our solemn thank you.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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