A DEVOTED friend flew 5,000 miles from America to honour his childhood buddy.
Alan Johnson made the trip back to Sunderland to present a £10,000 cheque to Hylton Red House Primary School in memory of Terry Connor on what would have been his 56th birthday.
The school is using the money to set up the Terry Connor Adventure Activities Bursary to make sure pupils don’t miss out on outdoor fun due to lack of finances.
Growing up in Red House, Alan and Terry were inseparable and their friendship wasn’t shaken when Alan moved to Arizona with his family 14 years ago.
However, six years ago tragedy struck when dad-of-six Terry died of lung cancer.
Alan said: “I cannot remember meeting Terry because he was always there.
“We were born as neighbours, our houses being no more than 10 yards from each other. We grew up together as kids, did everything together.
“We talked a lot about our childhood and how much we had enjoyed our time at the primary school, so I wanted to do something for the children at the school in memory of Terry.”
Alan, 57, managed to raise a chunk of the cash being sponsored by family, friends and the community where he now lives in Tucson, to diet, losing more than 50lbs.
Terry’s family also raised some of the money and school governors matched the amount.
“Terry himself struggled with the costs of school trips, being from a family of eight,” said Alan.
“I know that Terry would like this new bursary. He always encouraged me to become healthier and this is my way of honouring my friend.”
Steve Williamson, headteacher at Hylton Red House Primary School, said: “Alan contacted me some time ago. It was profoundly moving to know that an old boy of the school, who now lives in the USA, was willing to raise money for our children in memory of his friend.”
Ann Hodgson, chairman of governors at the Rotherham Road school, said: “We are extremely grateful to Alan. The school has committed to getting children out enjoying a wide variety of additional sport, adventurous activities and residentials.
“The bursary, which will start with a fund of £10,000, will be open to all of our children to help support the cost.”
Terry’s brother, George Connor, said: “Since Terry died, the family has raised money for Macmillan and when Alan told us about this we were delighted.
“The school has always been important to both our families.”
He said at any one time there is usually a member of the Connor family at Hylton Red House Primary. Three of Terry’s grandsons are there and a great nephew.
Alan plans to spend two weeks in Sunderland catching up with family and friends and celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with wife Sylvia.