Last year, my 11 year-old daughter Madeline—Maddee for short—came home from school outwardly upset about the way her peers were treating one another, and more upset still because no one seemed to notice or care about what was happening. When her despair started to become a trend, my husband and I encouraged Maddee to think about how she might be able to make a difference. After much research and hard work, Maddee came across Buddy Benches, special benches that are placed in and around schools that serve to eliminate loneliness and foster kindness and inclusion. When a child is feeling lonely, is being bullied, or otherwise having a bad day, the child can sit on the Buddy Bench. When other students see the child on the bench, they are encouraged to join the child on the bench and talk with him or her. The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to eradicate bullying and to cultivate friendship and community on the playground and throughout the school.
To fund Buddy Benches throughout our school district and beyond, Maddee founded Maddee's Wings, a non-profit corporation dedicated to reducing the incidents of bullying and suicide in our communities and educating young people about emotions and emotional health and well-being. Maddee hopes to be able to place Buddy Benches not only in her school, but throughout her school district and the greater St. Louis area.