Friends to gather again March 9

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Howie Morton, Mike Dorner and Ray O’Phee raise a toast to the upcoming Friends of Chatham Gathering to be held at the KBD Club on Byng Avenue March 9. The event is held to bring old and new friends together and raise funds for the Chatham-Kent Hospice.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 Three long-term Chatham buddies are up to their usual hijinks.

For a fifth year, Howie Morton, Ray O’Phee and Mike Dorner are putting together the “Friends of Chatham Gathering.”

To be held at the KBD Club in Chatham March 9, the annual event is a chance to bring Chatham residents together, while raising funds for Chatham-Kent Hospice.

This year the free event will feature musician Chris Bird, open mic sessions, door prizes and plenty of light-hearted fun. Pulled pork is on the menu.

According to Dorner, more than 700 people came through the doors in 2023, raising $11,700 for hospice. All told, the Friends gathering has raised more than $28,000 to assist people and their families with end-of-life care.

The “friends” come from far and wide.

“We’ve had former Chatham residents come from as far away as Saskatchewan,” Dorner explained recently. “This year we’re expecting people from British Columbia to New Brunswick.”

The idea for the Friends of Chatham Gathering was hatched between Morton, O’Phee and Dorner after they kept meeting at the funerals of other friends. The trio decided it would be better to celebrate life together in person, rather than meeting at someone’s death.

“We’d like to see everybody there,” Dorner said.

While providing a forum for friendship, the event also serves to commemorate those who have passed on. A moment of silence will be held at 4 p.m. to honour those who have been lost.

Dorner said nametags will be provided for attendees, as many people don’t recognize each other due to the passage of time.

The Friends of Chatham Gathering starts at noon and runs until closing time if the party is still going.

The KBD Club is located at 34 Byng Ave. in Chatham. While there is no cover charge, freewill donations are encouraged.

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