Here Kerri Gunn, 50, tells the story in her own words.
Twiddling my thumbs, I watched the clock tick.
It was 2am and I was working a night shift.
Bored, I got an idea.
What if I become friends with everyone with the same name as me? I pondered.
So, on Facebook, I searched Kerri Gunn.
Results poured in from all over the world.
We’re international! I smiled.
Sending friend requests out, I attached messages to more than 30 Kerri Gunns.
My name is Kerri, I typed. We have the same name, let’s be friends.
As I expected though, the majority of my messages went unanswered. Some blocked me and other requests were denied.
Do people think I’m trying to steal their identity? I chuckled. It’s my name, too!
Then my phone pinged.
Kerri Gunn has accepted your friend request, it read.
Posting on my Facebook, I let my other friends know what I was up to.
Call me crazy but I just added 30 Kerri Gunns to be my friend, I wrote.
Many of my mates responded thinking it was hilarious, but my new bud Kerri surprised me.
I am pleased to be your friend, she wrote.
Instantly my heart was filled with warmth. Sending her a private message we got to chatting about our lives.
She was 47, from California and was happily married with kids. Snapping pictures of where we lived, we chatted online for weeks.
I even sent her a package full of Aussie goodies!
Packing up Tim Tams, a Cherry Ripe, Crunchie, and a stubby holder, I posted it off.
You shouldn’t have! Kerri beamed over her gifts.
But one day Kerri shared some sad news with me. Her mum had just passed away and she was heading back to her family home in Florida.
Jumping in my car, I travelled 45 minutes to a beautiful church in Brisbane.
Lighting a candle, I took a photo and sent it with my well wishes to the Gunns.
I’m thinking of you all today, I wrote to Kerri.
You are so sweet, she gushed in reply.
Then I received a friend request from Kerri’s brother, Phillip.
It’s so nice to have a light burning for Mum on the other side of the world, he wrote.
Soon I had every member of the US Gunn household befriending me.
You need to come to Florida! they wrote.
Turning to my hubby Michael, I threw out the idea.
‘Let’s take the whole family,’ he said, jumping at the chance.
Packing our bags, my hubby and two boys, Jonathan, 18, and Matthew, 15, and I set off.
I instantly recognised Kerri’s glowing smile from her pictures.
Running towards each other with open arms we were like long lost sisters.
‘Nice to meet you Kerri,’ I said
‘You too, Kerri,’ she laughed.
We enjoyed delicious American food and hit all the tourist sites together.
Phillip even took us to an American football game!
And when we had to bunker down during Hurricane Matthew, they opened their homes to us.
Even though we had just met, we didn’t feel like strangers at all.
They even invited us to stay for Thanksgiving.
We felt like we were a part of the family.
‘Don’t be strangers now,’ I said, waving the Gunn family goodbye.
And sure enough, a year later, Kerri packed her bags and came to say G’day.
I made sure to give her the true Aussie experience.
She enjoyed a lamington, cuddled a koala, went to the beach and bottle-fed a joey.
After I made her toast one morning, she slathered on the Vegemite.
‘Kerri!’ I said.
But before I had the chance to tell her she’d used too much, she bit into her brekkie.
‘Yuck!’ she exclaimed.
Laughing together, I remade her a slice with just the perfect amount of Vegemite smeared on top.
‘That’s better,’ she smiled.
Hearing my phone ping, I turned to Kerri in shock.
‘Kerri Gunn accepted your friend request,’ I said.
This Kerri was from Romania and wanted to meet up, too!
‘Now the Kerri Gunn club has grown to three members,’ we laughed.
Waving Kerri goodbye at the airport, it was sad to see her go. But I know it won’t be forever.
We now send each other parcels when a new grandchild arrives and for Christmas and birthdays.
I believe there are more good people in the world than bad and you have to take a chance. You never know what friendship is waiting.
‘Two years ago I asked a stranger with my name to be my friend, and she is a great one!’ I tell everyone.
It’s funny how a namesake created such a tight friendship.
We plan on going to Scotland to find out our surname’s ancestry, but I think we might make a quick pit stop in Romania first!
Meet the Shirleys!
In 1996, Shirley Brown from WA put an ad in the paper asking for people named Shirley to come together for a cup of tea – and 65 Shirleys showed up! Now, 22 years on, there’s a Shirley Club in every state and territory in Australia, as well as three in New Zealand. In the US, there are almost 400 members. But what happens when all the Shirleys are in a room and you need to find someone? The members have already figured that out. ‘If someone calls across the room, they use your surname,’ Shirley Brushaber told Oversixty.com. ‘And, of course, all the surnames are shortened, so Robertson is Robbo, Brushaber is Brushy and so on. Our motto is fun, food and friendship, and we have lots of it.’