Jun 4, 2018

Community Unites to Replace Buddy Bench

Volunteers rebuild the buddy bench

For years, Fairfield Elementary School’s Buddy Bench has been a place for students to go when they felt like they had no one to participate with in recess activities.

Seeing a student sitting on the Buddy Bench was a sign to other students that they should reach out to those kids and ask them to join in a game of tag or play on the swings.

So, after the colorfully painted bench was destroyed by vandals on Memorial Day, parents, students, staff, and neighbors of Fairfield Elementary School’s community decided they weren’t going to sit idly by and let that kind of behavior win the day.

They came together as a community and, this weekend, built a new Buddy Bench at the elementary school to ensure that students who need a friend will always have a place to find one.

“With every negative thing, there is always a silver lining,” said Principal Ruth Stickel. “This really brought everyone in our school community together. Ironically, it was kind of a great way to end the year.”

Stickel said up to 40 people were at the school Saturday, working to build a new bench. Sherwin Williams and Home Depot donated supplies to build and paint the bench, and Tim Hortons donated doughnuts and beverages for the effort.

“I did not ask anyone to do this,” Stickel said. “It was just one of those spontaneous things. It was totally a grass roots effort.”

The Buddy Bench has been in place probably four or five years. Some of Pickerington’s other elementary schools have created similar spots, but Stickel said she thinks Fairfield’s was the first in the district.

“It’s not a place to just sit and rest,” she said. “If you’re looking for someone to play with you sit there, or if you see someone sitting over there, you go ask them to join in.”

While the original damage to the bench was negative, Stickel said the resulting outpouring of support and volunteerism (led by parent Brent Durbin) were inspiring. And, this fall, students in need of a buddy will once again have a place to turn.

“I think it’s a good reminder that there’s such a good community, not just here but in the whole district,” Stickel said. “Our schools belong to everyone, and no one has the right to destroy them.”

the completed buddy bench