Bill Duggan, a veteran volunteer firefighter from New York, will be the star of a meet-and-greet Saturday morning hosted by St. Paul firefighters. He’s in town to see his first Super Bowl game live, and no one is more surprised to be here for the big game than him.
Duggan, 59, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in October. While undergoing chemotherapy, friends raised money for Super Bowl tickets for him through a GoFundMe page. The fund drive drew attention after a local newspaper did a story.
One Sunday morning, fire officials asked him to stop by the station for a radio interview. When he showed up with his girlfriend and saw 50 people there, he knew something was up. “We never had 50 people there,” he said.
Then he noticed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who gave him four Super Bowl tickets in front of firefighters, family members and reporters.
“And he stayed there taking pictures,” Duggan said of Goodell. “His wife brought cookies!”
Duggan became a volunteer firefighter as an 18-year-old, he said, when he was playing pool with some friends at a local firehouse and they invited him to join them. He has volunteered for three fire companies across New York, and though he became inactive about ten years ago he’s still a social member.
“The camaraderie is phenomenal,” he said.
Duggan first felt the telltale signs of brain cancer at his grandson’s christening. He told his family he had a headache and went to see a doctor, who discovered a large mass in his head.
He was scheduled to arrive in Minnesota Friday afternoon with a childhood friend, the friend’s son and son-in-law. The GoFundMe money will cover airfare and lodging. He plans to return Monday to New York, where he’ll be “looking forward to going back to reality” and focus again on getting healthy.
“I’ve got stuff to do with my grandson and my family,” he said.