Sunset Heights receives Buddy Bench from Lions Club

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Photo by Darrell Jackson
Students from Sunset Heights Elementary School sit on the Buddy Bench donated to the school from the Peoria Pioneer Lions Club Sept. 27. Willow District Councilmember Jon Edwards stands behind the Lions Club mascot.

As more and more reports of student shootings flood the airwaves, members of the Peoria Pioneer Lions Club wanted to do more to help students and decided to start a goal of getting Buddy Benches for each of the 31 elementary schools it sponsors in Peoria and Glendale.

After a student from Sunset Heights Elementary School committed suicide over the summer, Lions Club member Joyce Mayer said the club decided to place a Buddy Bench in the playground area of the school. A Buddy Bench is a special place in a school playground where a child can go when he wants someone to talk to or if he feels alone. They were originally created in 2012 by Florida fifth-grader Acacia Woodley. Acacia was born without a right hand and a deformed left hand and said people were staring at her and she wanted a safe place.

Mayer said the story of the benches hit home for Sunset Heights Elementary School and the Lions Club wanted to do something.

“We started seeing so much bullying in schools and shootings, we decided we wanted to do something more tangible,” Mayer said during the bench dedication Sept. 27. “We worked very hard to get our first bench and this is the second of three already in the works.”

The Lions Club donated a Buddy Bench to Apache Elementary School in April and quickly began trying to get more. Originally designed as a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground, Buddy Benches have helped transform in a way to help students interact with each other. Students from Sunset Heights Elementary School showcased the benches Sept. 27 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sunset Heights Principal Rae Mowad Conelley said a child can sit on the bench if someone is bullying him and other children would, hopefully, talk to an administrator to help, as well as teach children acceptance, build character, social skills, and promote friendship, which they teach at the school.

“This works perfectly for what we do here using life skills and lifelong guidelines program,” Conelley said. “Friendship is one of our life skills and play works that is ongoing right here, so it all works together to express what we are trying to teach our children.”

She added it was an honor to be selected as the second school to receive a bench from the Lions Club.

“It makes the entire staff here so happy to know that we have our community behind us to support our students and our school,” Conelley said.

Mayer and members of the Lions Club discussed the new bench with students during a 20-minute presentation before all students went out to the bench where Conelley cut the ribbon to officially dedicate the bench for the students. They then read “The Friendship Bench” by Whitney Dineen, which tells the story of a student moving to a new town and using a Buddy Bench to make new friends.

Mayer said the Lions Club has been vocal in getting help to help them sponsor the benches. Each bench costs $850, and a third is scheduled for installation in late October at Skyview Elementary School.

“We have a third bench that we are installing at Skyview and we hope to get help in putting benches in each of the 31 schools we sponsor,” Mayer said. “We are also looking for local businesses to help sponsor getting benches in each of the schools so the kids have a safe area to go and, hopefully, make friends when they are feeling down.”

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Peoria Times

Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
Ph: (623) 842-6000
Fax: (623) 842-6013

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