KENNEBUNK – Seventy-three, 74, 75, 76 . . . with each successful foul shot, Dave Cummings added one more to his count. Soon, dozens of 9-year-old voices joined his, the noise getting louder when he hit 100.

With his right hand, Cummings pointed to the American flag hanging at the top of a gym wall in the Sea Road School. On cue his young audience yelled, THANK YOU!

The salute on Thursday morning wasn’t to Cummings, but to all the men and women who have served in the nation’s armed forces, particularly those who sacrificed their lives or their health. A 44-year-old man who confesses he was too selfish to serve his country as a young man is giving back with the only talent he believes he has: putting a basketball through a hoop.

One hundred and three, 104, 105 . . . Cummings kept shooting. He won’t stop until he reaches 1,000,000 made shots next week on Veterans Day at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. He began his mission on Veterans Day, 2009. He had hoped to raise $1 million for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which aids families of the wounded or killed and funnels money to build rehab centers. After nearly two years, donations to his Hoops for Heroes website are substantially below that number. All money he raises goes directly to the Fallen Heroes Fund.

Cummings is media director for the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. He’s kept his day job as he tries to average about 1,300 made shots a day. He’s toed the foul line at the TD Bank Garden during a Boston Celtics game, and on the flight deck of the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, now a museum and docked in the Hudson River off midtown Manhattan. Cummings made his 500,000th shot on that day. He’s made foul shots in the rain and in the snow, as far west as Arkansas and as far south as Tennessee.

His most emotional shooting session came last year in Waterville Valley, N.H., on the 21st birthday of native son Marc Decoteau, who died in uniform shortly after arriving in Afghanistan. Cummings’ goal was 21,000 shots. He did it, after nearly 21 hours on the line interrupted by two dinner breaks and a few rest breaks to tend to an aching right wrist. His calves started to hurt, too.

On average, he makes about 91 out of every 100 shots. Near the end of his 21-hour stint at Waterville Valley, “I was just heaving the ball up. I was shooting 50 percent, I was so tired.”

It’s a small, small price to pay, said Cummings, whose effort was witnessed by the Decoteau family. Mark Decoteau, Waterville Valley’s town manager and Marc’s father, gave Cummings a dog tag that commemorated his son. The tag was one of four presented to the family by the U.S. Army. “Mark told me to wear it until I made my 1,000,000th shot,” said Cummings.

He had too much fun as a college student, a self-described egocentric. The thought of joining the military to serve his country hadn’t really crossed his mind. “The person I was then couldn’t have made the decision to do it. I do have regrets.”

One hundred and seventy-seven, 178, 179 … he ended his day at Sea Road School with 1,000 made shots. All of his shots are documented on video. He doesn’t want anyone to take his word.

When he’s at home in Epsom, N.H., his alarm clock wakes him early in the morning. He dresses and heads for his driveway, basketball in hand. He’s rigged a net that funnels the ball back to him. At Sea Road School, students took turns retrieving the basketball and passing it to school principal Steve Marquis, a standout athlete at Old Town High in the 1980s.

“We ask our students, what can you do to make a difference,” said Marquis. “Dave is showing them how he does it.”

Although Marquis doesn’t know if anyone, other than Cummings, can grasp what 1,000,000 made shots means. Students illustrated sheets of graph paper that added up to 1,000,000 squares. They cheered him and lined up for autographs. Their enthusiasm buoyed Cummings even more.

The former South Portland resident will visit several more schools in New Hampshire before leaving for Springfield next week. The count of made shots stands at 992,007 going into Friday.

Come Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day, Cummings’ mission of calling attention of fallen heroes will be done. “This isn’t about me. It’s about the reason I’m doing this, the real sacrifices made by our men and women. The day this is over, I’m going to enjoy the alarm clock not going off.

He’s whole, physically. Emotionally he feels even better. He laughs at the thought that someone might ask him to coach foul shooting. He feels so fortunate when so many others need support. He wants you to know that.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway