Rotary Club of Meriden, Connecticut
 Meriden Buddy Bench
Rotary Club of Meriden


Buddy Benches Arrive in Meriden Schools


MERIDEN — Benjamin Franklin Elementary School received its buddy benches on Wednesday, and the school celebrated with an assembly, a pledge and a song.

“The benches are there for when you feel like you need a friend,” said Rotary Club President Ty Bongiovanni to the kids. “It’ll always be there for you if you need it.”

Students are encouraged to sit on a buddy bench if they are looking for a friend, and to ask kids sitting on the bench to play.

Rotary collaborated with the school district to install the benches at all eight elementary schools. The benches already have been presented to Hanover, Casimir Pulaski and John Barry schools.

“So far, we’re right on track,” Bongiovanni said.

The Dan M. Hunter Memorial Fund donated for a second bench at Benjamin Franklin, since the school has a separate play area for kindergarteners. Hunter was executive vice president of Hunter’s Ambulance and a president of Rotary. Hunter’s administrative offices are across from the school on South Vine Street.

Dan Hunter’s wife and family were present at the assembly.

“We feel it’s very important for the kids to learn about kindness and inclusiveness,” said Cliff Carlson, retired vice-president of operations at Hunter’s and Dan Hunter’s brother-in-law.

Hunter’s also is donating a bench to St. Joseph School.

Rotary coordinated funding for the district-wide buddy bench project from local groups, including the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a memorial organization for Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jesse Lewis.

The Kiwanis Club funded a second bench at John Barry, and Rotary donated some supplemental funds to the buddy bench project.

“From the Rotary’s perspective, the commitment and enthusiasm from the Board of Ed, from the principals and teachers at the schools, and especially the kids, is kind of inspiring for all the club members to do more with the Board of Ed and school system,” Bongiovanni said.

At the assembly, five students demonstrating how the bench works in a short skit. The students were fourth-graders in Kiwanis’ elementary-level club, K-Kids.

Bongiovanni said the K-Kids will be “ambassadors of the benches.”

“We want to make sure there is actually peer-to-peer use of the bench,” he said, so K-Kids are encouraged to take responsibility and make sure kids who sit on the benches are noticed.

The students also recited a pledge to be a good friend by inviting kids on the bench to play, and then fingerprinted a sign to seal the deal back in their classrooms.

By Lauren Takores Record-Journal staff

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