For the last few years, a new, wonderful trend has gained momentum among students at schools around the country. The “Buddy Bench” can be a bit of an oasis on school playgrounds for lonely kids in need of a friend.
At Flagstaff Academy Charter School, in Longmont, a group of Girl Scouts decided to honor a classmate who died last year by installing a Buddy Bench on their school playground. The bench was unveiled at a special ceremony on May 1, which would have been Odin Mitchem’s 11th birthday.
Odin, who was known for his friendliness and care for others, passed away last August after suffering from respiratory failure, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family.
He was one of those kids who had a conflict, he wanted to make sure it worked out,” Terri Long, Flagstaff’s Assistant Principal, told 9News.
So when members of Girl Scout Troop 4020 were looking for a meaningful project to earn their bronze badge, they enlisted the help of their parents to add a Buddy Bench to their school playground, ensuring a safe place that will encourage inclusion and kindness to all. The purpose of the bench is simple: when students feel lonely and friendless, they can take a seat on the bench. Other students keep an eye on the bench, and when they see someone sitting there, they then invite those students to join them in their games.
The idea for Buddy Benches first took off in America in 2013 when a Pennsylvania first-grader named Christian pitched the idea to his school principal after seeing something similar overseas. The story received a lot of publicity and press coverage, and soon the idea caught on with Buddy Benches popping up all across the nation.
The bench at Flagstaff Academy, however, is extra special because Odin’s legacy of friendship and kindness will continue to live on, even after his passing. The Girl Scouts decorated the bench with bright colors and bugs, as well as the phrase “You’ve got a friend in me!” written across the bottom.
“He was one of the very first people to ask me to be his friend,” one of Odin’s fellow students said to 9News.
What do you think? Could a Buddy Bench foster inclusiveness and friendship at your child’s school? Tell us below!