Buddy Benches Abound

The Community Foundation’s Council of Business Partners Buddy Bench project, in partnership with Rushford, a Hartford Healthcare Partner, continues to grow and share benches throughout Middlesex County. The Council of Business Partners’ original idea of a buddy bench on every school playground has attracted lots of attention in Middlesex County, and people are coming to us with new ideas of places where benches would encourage our friends and neighbors to take a few moments to sit, relax, and enjoy conversation.

Recently CFMC’s Council of Business Partners and Rushford placed three more benches – at the Giving Garden of Durham Middlefield, at Indian Hill Cemetery, and at Kids of Chatham Organization (KOCO) in East Hampton. Boys from Rushford Academy delivered the benches and talked with volunteers, students, and community members at the various locations about their work in building the benches.

Volunteers at the Giving Garden of Durham Middlefield had some special four-footed friends for the presentation that proved the buddy benches are not just for people:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Hill Cemetery‘s bench was donated by an anonymous donor in memory of Dimitri Moore:

 

 

 

 

 

 

KOCO had a special surprise for CFMC and Rushford – the children created thank you signs and a special “Be My Buddy” list as well as greeting us with a thank you song:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the CFMC Council of Business Partners Campaign for Bully-Free Communities and the Buddy Bench project:

In 2009, the Community Foundation of Middlesex County Council of Business Partners Fund and the Rushford Center’s Prevention Department came together to work on the No Bully Zone Program. From that program we were able to expand into Middletown Schools, Haddam-Killingworth Middle School, and East Hampton Middle School with our S.A.F.E. Squad curriculum and activities which was a great success for the No Bully Zone Program. We have continued to work together towards success involving students from across Middlesex County to stand up for kindness and unity.

Our latest partnership has extended to Rushford’s Residential Treatment Program for Adolescent boys. The boys have been instrumental in the creation of the “Buddy Benches.” The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground. The boys, along with staff, have been able to hand-craft beautiful Buddy Benches for local elementary schools. The first bench was created in September 2017 and presented to spencer Elementary School in Middletown. Information was shared with the principal and school staff so that the students had an understanding of what the Buddy Bench is and how to use the Buddy Bench, as well as a letter to go home with families. The kindergarten and first grade classes were invited outside to welcome their new buddy bench to their school. Students took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony as well as meeting some of the boys who created the bench. The students greeted the boys with applause and a big “thank you.” That very moment showed how working together truly makes a difference. The students from spencer will forever be a part of the first ever Buddy Bench at their school and the entire school community will continue to foster and promote kindness and inclusion and the boys from Rushford have been able to give something that will for many, many years to come.

After the first Buddy Bench installation at Spencer Elementary School in Middletown, interest and support for the program continued to grow through CFMC, with individual donors stepping up to fund enough Buddy Benches to cover the entire county and beyond. Two donor-funded benches were presented to The Country School in Madison and benches have been placed in East Hampton, Middletown, Deep River, and Essex.  The increased production demand also created a need for more supervisors and mentors to work with the Rushford Academy students. At-risk men from Rushford’s Stonehaven program answered the call and are now volunteering their time as part of their recovery and community service work, underscoring the concept of “Buddying Up for Positive Change.”

What is the Buddy Bench?

The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground. Let’s spread the message of inclusion and kindness!

Buddy Bench Rules

  1. Have a plan before you go out to play.
  2. Try your words first to find a friend before using the bench.
  3. Sit and wait for a friend to ask you to play.
  4. Playground friends look around from time to time to see if a lonely classmate is using the behcn. If someone is on the bench, invite him or her to play.
  5. If you choose to use the bench, you must accept a friend’s invitation to play.
  6. If no one approaches a student on the bench, and adult will help that student find a “buddy.”

“I hope that new friendships will be made because of the Buddy Bench.” – Christian Bucks

Christian’s Story

In the spring of 2013, when Christian was in first grated, there was a possibility that his family was going to move to Germany. When they were looking at a website for a school overseas, Christian saw a picture of a special bench on the playground. He asked about it and liked what he heard. He thought it would be a really great thing to have on the playground at his current school, Roundtown Elementary. He knew that there were some kids who felt lonely at recess and he thought this would put an end to that! He told his teacher and his principal about it and they thought it was a great idea. Since it was the end of the school year, the principal said he would look into it over the summer and they would get it in place in the fall.

In the end, Christian didn’t move to Germany, so he was able to stay at Roundtown. Sure enough, his principal researched it and let Christian help pick out the bench in the fall. After the buddy bench arrived, Christian gave a presentation to the school board to explain it. Before it was placed on the playground, Christian spoke in front of his whole school at a community morning meeting to explain the buddy bench and show a video about it that he had made with his principal. The kids loved it and were very excited for the bench to be placed on the playground.

The local newspaper did a story on the buddy bench and it caught the attention of the Huffington Post. From there it was picked up by NBC and other media outlets. Christian has heard from students and adults across the country who love this idea and want to do the same thing at their schools. He is so excited by this and is eager to see the buddy bench movement spread. He is happy to help spread the word in any way he can.

At least 1.000 elementary schools on six continents have installed Buddy Benches on their playgrounds. The popularity of Buddy Benches in the United States is credited to then first-grader Christian Bucks.

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