Enjoying your friends (while you can)

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Howard Morton, Ray O’Phee and Mike Dorner are holding the second annual Friends of Chatham Gathering March 9 to raise money for the Chatham Hospice.

Three Chatham-Kent men who held a successful Friends of Chatham Gathering last year to raise money for the Chatham Hospice are gearing up for another event.

Ray O’Phee, Howard Morton and Mike Dorner are holding the second annual event March 9 at noon at the KBD Club on Byng Avenue in Chatham. Admission is no charge with freewill offerings accepted for the Hospice.

The three men have known each other since elementary school, and connected at the celebration of life of their mutual friend Brent Preston. Happy to see each other, the three men commented that it’s too bad they only see each other when a mutual friend has passed, and the first Gathering was born.

The idea came from a wish that friends should enjoy each other and make an effort to get together while they are still able to enjoy each other’s company.

“Everyone is invited. It doesn’t just have to be people we knew in high school. If you are new to Chatham and want to make new friends, come on out,” O’Phee said.

O’Phee said while their friend Brent was in the Chatham-Kent Hospice, they were impressed with how the staff took care of him and his family, allowing him to die with dignity in a caring and supportive atmosphere. That is why the money raised by the Gathering event goes to Hospice.

Through social media and word of mouth last year, close to 400 people attended the party and $2,000 was raised for the hospice. Morton said people from as far away as Saskatchewan, Fort Erie and Toronto came to the event.

“We were sitting here at noon wondering if anyone was going to come and we worried a little bit,” Morton said. “Then all of a sudden people started to show up, and by 2 p.m. or so, the hall was packed with people.”

The KBD Hall is once again donating the hall for the event, and Chris Bird and the Bushman will be on hand to provide entertainment again for the crowd. Other entertainers are expected to attend as well.

There will be door prizes this year donated by local businesses.

The free event is open to anyone who wants to attend.

O’Phee said last year, he had people come up to him he hadn’t seen since high school and it was great to catch up with old friends, a theme that the event is all about. People are encouraged to put some money in the jar for the hospice, but Dorner said there is no pressure to donate, just to come out and have a good time.

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