A FACEBOOK page reuniting old friends has also helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Former Longfield School pupil Tony Kemp, 56, set up the group “Longfield group for ex-pupils and teachers” in October 2014, with just six members. It now has almost 2,000.

Mr Kemp was new to the internet when he first launched the group in an attempt to reconnect with some of his old school friends – and the word soon spread.

He said: “About three years ago I’d never heard of the internet but I got a Play Station 3 and I was messing about on the internet and I saw Facebook so I got in touch with school mates as it’s been 40 years.”

Members of the group met for a successful ‘Big Reunion’ in July 2015 which was attended by 283 ex-pupils and teachers, raising £420 towards Longfield’s minibus fund. And since then the group have been continuing with their charitable efforts.

In May last year £1,463 was raised for Help the Heroes at the Phoenix House Personnel Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison to aid soldiers’ recovery, with a further mini reunion taking place in May 2017 raising money for the Butterwick House Hospice for babies to young adults in Stockton.

Members of the group vary from pupils who attended when the school first opened to those who were leavers in the 2000s. The group collectively has raised over £2000 through organised coffee mornings, quiz nights and fundraisers alone.

Mr Kemp, who suffers from epilepsy and has battled alcohol addiction in the past, said the group had turned his life around.

“It has changed my life for the better, it’s changed who I am, and I’m a different person,” he said.

“I communicate with people every day in the group. It keeps me busy, whereas I used the bottle for company in the past.

“If I’m not on the group I do get phone calls off people worrying if I’ve had an (epileptic) seizure. They’re people who look out for me. It’s a good feeling, I’ve made true friends through this group.”

The next ‘Big Reunion’ will take place in 2018, as Longfield will celebrate its 50th Birthday with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s and dementia charities. Those attending can expect live music, stand-up bingo and food with all proceeds from the £10 tickets going to charity.

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