The Dunn Family

Maxine Dunn's trip to Everest

“I grew up watching my parents ask people if they need help: an older woman putting groceries in her car, a teenager broken down on the side of the road. This has shaped who I am. Helping others is a norm,” says Maxine Dunn, daughter of Marty Dunn.

The Dunn Family, from Peterborough, NH, consists of Marty, Michelle, and their four daughters. Every member of the family is involved in public service both inside and outside of their careers. When Hurricane Harvey hit, Marty and Michelle decided to open their home to people who have been displaced. It’s through actions like this that Marty and Michelle have taught their daughters the value of giving.

When Marty saw pictures from the hurricane, he was shocked. “In my 33 year career [as a police officer] I never had to face something like that,” he says. Marty and Michelle donated money but that didn’t feel like enough. Marty says, “they need money, but someone could go down with a wheelbarrow full of money, and that might be wonderful, but you don’t convert that money into a shelter immediately.”

The Dunns felt like one of the immediate essentials for victims of Harvey was a place to stay and get back on their feet. Marty and Michelle realized that with just the two of them living in a home built for a family, they had room to spare. With this in mind, they called officials in Texas and asked them to find a family in need of a place to stay. Although no one has taken up their offer yet, people have already reached out to Marty offering to cover air fare.  

This act of service is not a first for Marty. He has presented drug education classes in schools, set up informational booths at malls, volunteered to cook meals at churches and visited nursing homes. “I find a great satisfaction in helping people. It makes you feel good,” he says.

Marty says he would often make a point to bring his daughters along to “demonstrate the value of public service.” This effort paid off. For Maxine, her lifestyle of giving started as a child when she began donating a portion of her allowance to charity and attending events with her father. More recently, she completed two service trips to Jamaica, and her senior year of college she led a season-long fundraiser to raise money for The Hope for Gus foundation, a non-profit organization that funds medical research. The goal is to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) during Gus’s lifetime.  

Maxine taught swimming lessons to Gus, age nine, last summer. “DMD is devastating. Instead of muscles that get stronger as he ages, Gus’ muscles are getting weaker,” Maxine explains. Most boys with DMD don’t live past their mid twenties; at this point there is no cure. Now, she is participating in a 17-day trek through the Himalayan mountains of Nepal to the base camp of Mount Everest, for The Hope for Gus foundation. Maxine has paid for her entire trip and any donations accepted go directly to the foundation.

Tonya Dreher, Gus’s mother, says that Maxine “jumped on board right away, putting her nursing career on hold to take the journey and raise money for the foundation.”

“Maxine clearly gets her philanthropic nature from her parents,” adds Dreher.

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The Dunns are so invested in community service that they’ve devoted their careers to it as well. Marty is a retired police chief, Michelle is a retired teacher, two of their daughters, one being Maxine, are nurses, one is a police officer, and the other is an athletic trainer.

“In order to have jobs like that you have to have a certain sense of community service,” says Marty. He adds that police, firefighters, teachers, etc, value their job as a way of life. “They give themselves on and off duty in ways people working regular jobs seldom do and at a fraction of the salary,” says Marty.

He explains that “as a police officer you see what horrible things humans do to other humans. The violence that people perpetrate upon other humans is just horrific. And seeing it makes you want to neutralize it the best you can by doing more than the job function of bringing in enforcement.”

Maxine decided to follow suit with a career in public service because she loves caring for people. She says, “nursing is unique because the nurse spends the most time with the patient. Nurses care for people holistically, meaning they pay attention to the mind, body, and spirit of the patient.”

Maxine graduated with her nursing degree in May and passed her boards in June. She plans to apply for jobs when she returns from Nepal. The rest of her family will await her return in Peterborough, possibly with a new family living with them!

“Most of Marty’s life has been spent in service to others. The entire family is open hearted, generous, and kind.  We are lucky to have them as members of our community in Peterborough,” says Dreher.