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Need a Playmate? Have a Seat and Just Say ‘Yes’

Students Raise Funds for Buddy Bench


Evan Fish said he knows what it’s like to get bummed out during recess when there are all kinds of kids around but seemingly nobody to play with.

So when the Pine Island Elementary third-grader read about something called a buddy bench earlier this school year, “I thought, maybe we should have one,” he said.

Skylar Martin holds a poster she made to raise money for the buddy bench purchase

Other students around the world have had the same thought. Learning of a buddy bench in Germany inspired Christian Bucks of York, Pa. to install one at his school’s playground a few years ago. His web site features buddy benches everywhere from New Brunswick, Canada to the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.

Evan took the idea to his teacher, Kristen Keifer, who thought it sounded like a stand-up plan. He enlisted classmate Izzy Toren as the campaign’s secretary — “She’s like a vice president,” he said; “He’s like my boss,” she said — to help come up with ways to raise the $300 or so they needed.

Keifer’s students made posters and bracelets to sell, and they appealed to the entire school to, for a buck apiece, wear a hat one day and bring a stuffed animal from home another day.

Their efforts paid off in about two months, and the bench arrived in January. Right now, it’s being tried out in various spots on the playground. It is expected to be permanently installed before the end of the school year.

Pine Island teacher Kristen Keifer

So, How do You Use it?

How it works, Evan explained, “is if you see someone on it, you ask if they want to play.”

What not to do? “Don’t just sit on it and if someone asks you to play say ‘no.’ Always say yes.”

And if you are on the bench and someone asks you to play, but you’re shy? “Just go like this,” said classmate Aden Cole, vigorously nodding his head.

Xavia Stephan can attest to the bonding power of the buddy bench. She saw a girl sitting on it, asked her to play, and now the two have played together three times during recess.

“We’ve done the swings, the bars, the spinny things … almost everything,” Xavia explained.

Students at Stoney Creek Elementary currently are raising funds for their own buddy bench.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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