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Prineville kids aim for new recess 'bench'-mark

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Apr 30 2014 08:48:16 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent heads to Ochoco Elementary to learn how "Buddy Benches" are changing the game of recess.

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

At recess you're never really alone, But for some kids, recess can be really lonely.

"I would sit in a field and roll a ball," one fifth-grade student told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday. "Recess was really sad and boring."

That was before the "Buddy Bench" -- a national movement that now officially has a seat at Ochoco Elementary.

Two fifth-grade girls came up with the idea to bring the bench to Ochoco after they learned about the program online.

According to the Buddy Bench website, the purpose of the bench  is to "eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground."

Teachers at Ochoco quickly jumped on board.

"If someone's lonely, they don't have a friend, or maybe they just got in a fight with a friend, then come to the Buddy Bench,"fifth-grade teacher Grace Deboodt said. 

"It makes me feel happy, seeing all these other kids happy," said one of the bench's co-creators, Jade Henry.

The bright green table and seats were painted and decorated by Jade and her friend, Ivy Cater.

"The two girls are so compassionate and so caring and so genuine that I'm not surprised they came up with it," Deboodt said.  "What I'm surprised with is no adults had come up with it yet."

Both Ivy and Jade take turns staffing the table, planning games or just talking to the other students.

"Either Jade or I will be there waiting for them, and once we have enough people, we go out in the field or stay at the Buddy Bench," Ivy said.

It's a bench that breaking barriers -- and Jade knows a thing or two about loneliness.

"When we didn't have the Buddy Bench, people didn't like me or my size," Jade said.

Deboodt said the bench offers what the school district can't.

"Budgets being what they are, we don't have counselors for them," Deboodt said.  They don't have the tools to solve their problems, but they came up with it (the bench) -- they got it done."

It's a bench built to battle against sadness, boredom and bullies.

"Some of them don't like this Buddy Bench. Others like it to death," Ivy said.

Jade said the bench does have its share of critics.

"Some of them, like the cool kids, they say this is a dumb idea," she said. "But I don't think so, because it's actually bringing out the niceness of us."

Now if only it could be that simple as we get older.

"Maybe once we keep moving on to middle school and high school, we could still maybe make another Buddy Bench," Jade said.

Hundreds of schools around the world now have Buddy Benches.

The movement started in the U.S. last spring after a Pennsylvania student heard about the benches in Europe.

For information about how you can bring a buddy bench to your school visit: http://www.buddybench.org.

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