The Hunter's Heroes Foundation launched in 2015 to honor the life, legacy, and service of Lt. Christopher Hunter of Cinnaminson, New Jersey. Lt. Hunter died in the line of duty on November 15, 2014, less than 24 hours after completing a shift with the Cinnaminson Fire Department. Lt. Hunter was hired as a career member of the department in 1998 and was a life member. The circumstances surrounding Lt. Hunter's death are what led to the foundation's slogan, "To Educate and Motivate."
Lt. Hunter's Book Collection
When the foundation first came to be the goal of the board was to educate as many firefighters, or those whose goal was to become a firefighter, as possible. This was initially done through donations of copies of Lt. Hunter's favorite books from the fire service. These books would sit on Lt. Hunter's desk at the firehouse, his desk at home, and his nightstand. Lt. Hunter craved knowledge. He wanted to learn as much as he possibly could about fighting fires, keeping his crew safe, and helping those in need during their darkest days.
The foundation was able to donate its first set of books in 2015 to the Burlington County Library Branch located in Westampton, which is where the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center is also located. Later that year, in July, the foundation made a donation of Lt. Hunter's favorite fire service books to the Burlington County Library Branch in his hometown of Cinnaminson. Books have also been donated to a branch in Willingboro and the Cherry Hill Public Library. Each book donation consisted of at least 25 books related to the fire service.
Anyone with a library card is able to borrow the books to help prepare for a career in the fire service, to study for tests, or to learn new tactics in an ever-evolving profession. Each set of books totals more than $1,500, which is quite the expense for those trying to put themselves through fire school on a limited budget. Almost all four libraries either had no books related to the fire service prior to the donations or had a very, very limited offering for the public.
The Annual Beef and Beer
The next venture undertaken by the foundation was the introduction of a beef and beer event. The first annual event was held in November of 2016 and has been held every year since in November as close to the date of Lt. Hunter's birthday (November 26) as possible.
The first event was held at Sacred Heart in Riverton. Since then, the Venue at Lenola in Moorestown has been the spot for the annual beef and beer to honor Lt. Hunter and his legacy. Each year the event is bigger and better and attending by more and more people. There is a DJ, a Chinese auction, a raffle, a chance to win a TV, baskets of cheer and many other prizes to go along with an incredible dinner, dessert and drinks.
The goal of the annual Beef and Beer, aside from celebrating Lt. Hunter's life and birthday, is to raise money for multiple charitable activities in which the foundation participates every year. The event is attended by Lt. Hunter's family, friends, and dozens of colleagues who had the opportunity to work or volunteer alongside him during his career in the fire service.
The Lt. Hunter Scholarship
Two years ago, the foundation created a scholarship in Lt. Hunter's name at his alma mater, Cinnaminson High School. The scholarship is awarded to one deserving graduating senior every spring. The seniors who wish to apply for the scholarship must submit an application that also includes an essay on a topic chosen by the foundation's board.
The first annual scholarship awarded to a graduating senior from Cinnaminson High School came in 2017 when Abaigeal Mayer was chosen from dozens of applicants. The foundation awarded its second scholarship in 2018 and will award its third later in 2019. Each year the winner is presented with a $1,000 check that can be used for tuition, books, fees or anything else they deem necessary for continuing their education at a higher level.
A Magical Christmas
2016 marked a very special year for the Hunter's Heroes Foundation. It was the start of a new tradition created by the board; A Magical Christmas. The foundation, with money raised from the Beef and Beer, was able to provide a local family in need with a special Christmas Day. The foundation bought presents, clothes, gift cards and other special items for an anonymous family that was nominated by members of the public. This is an especially important activity for the foundation because of Lt. Hunter's love for the Christmas season. He loved hanging lights and putting up decorations every year at his home in Cinnaminson. He loved spending time with his family during the holidays and this would have been near and dear to his heart.
2018 was the third straight year that the foundation was able to provide a special Christmas for a family in need. It was the most emotional one yet as the foundation provided presents for the family of another fallen firefighter, former Chief Mikey Johnson. Johnson died in a motorcycle accident before the holidays. He worked for a time with Lt. Hunter as a member of his platoon at the Cinnaminson Fire Department and the two became incredibly close. The foundation was able to present Johnson's widow and young daughter with as much of a magical Christmas as possible during such a difficult time.
The ability to provide families in need with a magical Christmas for the last three years wouldn't be possible without the generosity of all those who attend the annual Beef and Beer, who make donations to the foundation, or the businesses who provide the foundation with items for the raffle.
Claire Hunter, the widow of Lt. Christopher Hunter and the founder of the Hunter's Heroes Foundation, has done some speaking engagements over the last couple of years. The first came at an annual training event held by the Cinnaminson Fire Department known as the Safety Stand Down Drill. This is an event where the membership gathers in an auditorium or meeting room for a presentation instead of conducting physical training.
Claire prepared a speech for the event that she hopes left an impression on everyone in attendance. The speech touched on those who work in the emergency services being prepared now for the unspeakable. She pulled from her own experience, telling those in attendance that she and Chris were not prepared for the day he died. She wants all first responders to have life insurance policies, a will, and a plan for when they are gone, including who will be the guardian of any children.
Aside from the Cinnaminson Safety Stand Down Drill, every 6 months, Claire speaks to a class of Fire 1 students at the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center to spread the story of Lt. Hunter and the need to be prepared in such a dangerous profession.
The Future of the Foundation
Many of you might be wondering what the future of the foundation is. This is a question we get every so often from those who have supported us from the very beginning. The simple answer is that we will continue to honor the legacy and life of Lt. Hunter.
The Hunter's Heroes Foundation wants to find new ways to educate and motivate first responders, their spouses, and their families. Whether it's through speaking engagements, training sessions, or some other idea; we want to provide first responders with as much information as possible about how they can prepare for the unthinkable.
The foundation will continue to host the annual Beef and Beer to raise money for our various charitable causes. The scholarship in Lt. Hunter's name will continue to be awarded every spring to a graduating senior at Cinnaminson High School. Then, come December, the foundation will seek nominations from the public for a local family in need who could use a Magical Christmas like the ones we have provided over the last three years.
Join Our Efforts
The Hunter's Heroes Foundation is always looking for those who want to help us spread the word far and wide. If you'd like to offer your ideas on new charitable causes or simply help us at one of our events, be sure to contact us online. You can also submit a donation via our website if you'd like to help out simply by donating.
The members of the Hunter's Heroes Foundation, as well as Claire, CJ, and Emma cannot thank everyone enough for their love, generosity, support and guidance over the last four-plus years. Without all of you this foundation wouldn't be possible, what we do for the community wouldn't be possible, and we wouldn't have been able to move forward following the loss of Lt. Hunter.