CASSTOWN — The schoolyard can seem like a lonely place at times in one’s youth, but thanks to the Miami East Local School district community, there will always be a safe place to go to find a friend.
The Miami East Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) sponsored a project with families to bring “Buddy Benches” to the elementary playground. The benches were installed last month.
”The Buddy Benches have been a wonderful addition to our playground,” said Principal Brian Rohrer. “When the search for someone to play with is unsuccessful for our students, they are able to sit on the benches and wait for a buddy to arrive. After only a few short weeks of having the benches on the playground, staff members have reported countless stories of how students who normally play by themselves at recess are now playing with others. It’s a wonderful benefit to our students.”
According to a press release, the Buddy Bench is a simple idea to help eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground.
“When a child finds themselves alone on the playground, they can have a seat on the Buddy Bench, which allows other children to see an opportunity to include someone in their activity. A message of inclusion and kindness has been shared with the students with the help of the school counselors, as well as through the school’s Kindness Club,” said Rondi Niederkohr-Littlejohn, parent and PTO volunteer on behalf of the organization.
The Miami East community also chipped in to build the benches by sending in plastic caps and lids from various household items. The PTO then partnered with Greentree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, which used the materials to make the benches for the school district.
“Not only does this create a sense of ownership in the Buddy Bench, it also reinforces the importance of recycling to the children,” Niederkohr-Littlejohn said.
Students brought in caps from their family and friends, and several local companies even got behind this project, including Regal Beloit in Tipp City. The original goal was 400 pounds for one smaller Buddy Bench, however, the community support was overwhelming, with more than 1,000 pounds donated. The materials were enough for two larger benches for the playground.
Students and volunteers sorted through the donated items to make sure they could be used.
Two Miami East volunteers made the eight-hour round trip to drop off the caps and lids and pick up the benches last month.
“At Miami East Elementary, we are fortunate to have a supportive, active and involved PTO which provides unlimited opportunities for our students,” Rohrer said.
Rohrer also recongized Niederkohr-Littlejohn’s efforts, saying she was “instrumental” from the cap collection to the bench installation.
For more information on the Buddy Bench program, visit http://buddybench.org/