Longtime Wayne, NJ Firefighter Charlie Cunningham isn’t used to much attention. Even after 50 years of serving the people of his town, he had never received as much recognition as fans gave him Friday night when he was honored as the Hero of the Game during the Devils-Penguins game.
Cunningham’s acknowledgment was the central part of Wayne’s “My Town” night, the second game in a series of celebrations throughout the season where the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center recognizes communities, leaders and families from around the state.
Cunningham has had an extensive career, from becoming as a junior firefighter at the age of 14, to a five-year term as fire chief and three years spent as fire commissioner. He credits his tenure to a longstanding desire to serve his community, but recognizes there’s a cost for the people he and his fellow firefighters assist. “Unfortunately for them, when you go to help, it’s because their house is on fire.”
A lifelong resident of Wayne, Cunningham recalls that, as a child, the township was mostly farmland. As fields have given way to change, Cunningham now helps advise newer and younger firefighters with the wisdom and knowledge that his dedication to the department has provided. “It’s a young man’s game,” Cunningham quipped.
Even as thankful fans sought out Cunningham to offer thanks for his service, he stressed that it’s not about praise. “I love doing it. It’s a job you have to love….you can help your town and help your neighbors, but it’s not about getting credit for it.”
Each town that participates in the My Town events throughout the season will receive a custom designed bench by Halmar, as well as a shade tree in the spring. The next night in the My Town series is set for February 9, when the Devils will celebrate Clark, N.J. For more information on the My Town program, please call 973-757-6250.