In an attempt to combat bullying in schools, the Westminster Elks Auxiliary worked to raise more than $1,500 to add buddy benches to two Carroll County elementary schools.
Mardee Curtis, secretary of the Westminster Elks Auxiliary, said the group worked hard to purchase the benches — which create a space for students who are looking for friends to play with — for Manchester Elementary and Piney Ridge Elementary schools.
“Each year we raise money to give back to the community,” like Carroll Hospice or the Humane Society of Carroll County, Curtis said.
This year, she said, they wanted to do something for the school system because they didn’t like what they’ve seen about bullying in schools. Curtis said there are students who are bullied and go as far as to take their own lives.
The hope is that students who need a friend can go to that bench, she said.
Greg Raeder, assistant principal at Piney Ridge Elementary, said the school has tried a general program like this in the past, where they had a designated spot where students who want to make new friends can go.
Raeder said he’s seen kids connecting in these types of spots.
“They’ll strike up a conversation and next thing you know they’re off playing tag,” he said.
While Raeder said the school’s bench isn’t fully installed yet, kids are using it in its current location and there’s been a fair bit of socialization happening there.
This type of playground addition is important, he said, because it helps students get to know others they may not normally play with. Often, he said, students get ingrained with a group of friends and don’t reach out.
“I think oftentimes we really focus on the academics in school,” Raeder said, but he noted it’s important to remember to help the kids socialize, learn about others and experience friendships.
That’s partially what recess is for, he added.
“We want our school to be a place with a strong community,” Raeder said.
The benches are 6 feet in length and are made of recycled material, Curtis said. Each is engraved with words that deal with school mottos or mascots. Manchester’s bench has “BEE a Buddy. We Are All Part of the Hive.” The Piney Ridge bench reads: “Buddy Bench. A Safe and PAWsitive Place.”