Resident creates three 'buddy benches' for Streetsboro school district

by Mike Lesko | Reporter Published:

Streetsboro -- When a friend suggested that resident Jeff Shaffer create three wooden "buddy benches" for the school district, he leaped at the idea -- and even decided to pay for them himself.

"It was worth my time and my money," the life-long resident said.

One of the buddy benches was unveiled at the Aug. 14 Streetsboro Board of Education meeting.

"Nobody knew about this," Shaffer said. "We kept it under wraps for months."

Shaffer explained the concept.

"When a kid moves into a school district, he doesn't really know anybody," he said. "At recess, he is able to sit on the bench. If another kid sees him on the bench, he is supposed to go over and try to befriend the kid and help him out. The kid might be having a bad day at home or feel lonely. It falls into the 'no-bullying' aspect."

The idea for buddy benches was created in 2013 by Christian Bucks, a York, Pa., second-grader who noticed some of his classmates didn't have anyone to play with during recess, according to a buddy bench website.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, including kids who are alone at recess or lunch could help combat bullying.

The wooden benches, painted in yellow and blue, read: "Buddy bench, Streetsboro Rockets."

School Board members applauded Shaffer.

"Other ones look nice, but this is something special," said School Board member Kevin Grimm.

School Board member Denise Baba said she loved the hand-prints painted on the bench.

They are the actual hand-prints of Shaffer's children, Cami, 9, a fourth-grader at Henry Defer Intermediate School, and Jaden, 6, a first-grader at Wait Primary School.

"The hand-prints make the benches very kid friendly," said Denise (Hovanetz) Shaffer, their mother and also a life-long Streetsboro resident. "Jeff is very handy."

The three buddy benches are planned for the playgrounds at Wait Primary School, Campus Elementary School and Henry Defer Intermediate School.

Shaffer said it cost him about $75 to buy the materials to make each bench. There was no cost to the school district. He said it took him about one week to make each bench, and he and his wife painted them.

Buddy benches are already in the Aurora and Cuyahoga Falls school districts.

The Streetsboro project was suggested by resident Michelle Hushion, who approached Shaffer about it. Shaffer said he and Hushion went to school together.

Hushion said she got the idea from a story in the Akron Beacon Journal and posted an item on Facebook asking, "How can we get some of these for our schools?" She said Shaffer commented right away.

"I absolutely love them," Hushion said. "Jeff sent me some 'sneak peek' photos as they progressed. When he sent the picture of the first one completely finished, it was way better than I had even imagined. I'm so excited to see these placed at the schools."

Shaffer added, "It was an awesome project, and I told her I would love to take it on."

Shaffer said he tried to build the benches with safety in mind, making the base of the two rear legs sturdy, so they'd be less likely to flip over.

"Making them was a lot of fun," he added.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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