Harrisburg’s Colonial Park Mall donates Buddy Benches to local area elementary schools through an Essay Contest. The Buddy Bench project was started in 2013 by a Pennsylvania first grader named Christian as a way to eliminate loneliness and encourage friendships on the playground. Any child who feels lonely or needs someone to play with, can sit on the bench. When a student sees a classmate sitting on the bench they are encouraged to invite him or her to play. It is a simple idea that has already spread to school playgrounds around the country.
The Essay Contest is open to all area school children ages 5 to 12. Essays of no more than 500 words are written as a letter to the principal stating why the student thinks their school should have a Buddy Bench, how they plan to educate their peers about the Buddy Bench, and what they will do to ensure its success.
In the fall of 2014, Lani Moore, daughter of Michael and Amanda Moore, heard about the contest from her fifth grade teacher, Mr. Justin Smith. Lani wrote a letter to Mr. Bright explaining why she feels Reid students could benefit from a Buddy Bench. A few months later Mr. Bright brought Lani into his office to inform her that she had been selected as a winner of the essay contest. As a result, Colonial Park Mall delivered a Buddy Bench to Reid Elementary in July 2015. Lani is now a student at MAMS but she hopes the Buddy Bench will encourage her former schoolmates at Reid to reach out to those who are in need of a friend during recess.
Dear Mr. Bright,
Have you heard about the buddy bench? It is a bench where kids can sit on the playground if they feel lonely and another kid can come and ask them to play! The best part is the Colonial Park Mall is giving them to schools for free! That’s right…for free! I’m writing this letter to you to try and make you believe the buddy bench is right for Reid Elementary. I think this could really help our school because there has been lots of new kids lately. A kid like me would see them sitting alone and ask them to play. Or maybe someone just is having a bad day. They could sit on the buddy bench and wait for someone to talk. This is how the buddy bench could really work!
It makes me feel bad to see kids playing alone or sad. The buddy bench could really help so many children. I remember when I started in this school in first grade. I did not have any friends. When it was time for recess I just walked around the playground. If I had the buddy bench I could have sat on it until someone asked me to play. It would have been a lot easier for me to make friends.
I promise to teach other kids in our school how it works by talking to them about the buddy bench and me and my friends could make posters to hang in the school. If we get picked to receive the buddy bench we could have an assembly on the playground to get everyone excited about it.
To make sure the buddy bench works, every year one student from each classroom could be selected to be the buddy bench seeker. This student could always keep watch on the buddy bench during recess to make sure that no one ever is alone. No kid should ever feel alone on the playground. We only get fifteen minutes to play. This should be a fun time for everyone.
I think the buddy bench could really help our school. It would help kids make more friends and everyone could feel accepted. It would make the difference in the lives of so many children that come to your school every year. Don’t you think that would be great? I sure do. I think if we do not get picked for the buddy bench, I will ask my dad to build one for our playground and me and my friends could decorate it!
Thank you for reading my letter, Mr. Bright. I hope you agree that a buddy bench is right for Reid Elementary!
Robert Reid Elementary