Buddy Benches foster sense of inclusion

Timbers promote positive activities

By Sue Cody


Buddy Benches group FBKids at four Clatsop County elementary schools who are in need of a playmate are getting a boost from Portland Timbers and Providence Health & Services.


Those two organizations helped fund the idea of Warrenton Principal Tom Rogozinski and school board president Debbie Morrow to install a Buddy Bench on school playgrounds. When a child sits on the Buddy Bench, he or she is feeling lonely or having a difficult time, other kids will ask them to play.


“This is a great way to teach our kids the value of inclusion, empathy and compassion,” Morrow says.


Buddy Benches 2 FBTimber Joey and soccer players Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller and Darlington Nagbe helped local volunteers assemble the Buddy Benches at Warrenton Grade School Aug. 14. The benches will be placed in Astoria, Seaside, Warrenton and Gearhart.


That was just part of a busy Rose City Road Trip for these Timbers players. They also toured Providence Seaside Hospital, then met with local children and volunteers to assemble benches and paint Timbers’ and Thorns’ logos on and planter boxes and rounds of wood. They also hosted a free soccer camp for 100 kids at the Warrenton Soccer Complex.


Buddy Benches 4 FBAbout Buddy Benches


The idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground was brought to the foreground in 2013 by a then-first-grader Christian Bucks, in York, Pennsylvania. (buddybench.org)


Now nearly 2,000 elementary schools on six continents have installed Buddy Benches, and the number continues to grow.


“The idea is simple,” says Morrow. “If you need a buddy, sit on the bench.” In other communities, the benches have fostered friendships and given children a sense of belonging.


Buddy Benches 1 FB“The Buddy Bench idea is a small thing, but a lot of work goes into it,” says Warrenton-Hammond School District Superintendent Mark Jeffery. School staff is trained and teaches students to reach out to others, so no one feels isolated. “Every little thing helps to make students feel included.”


“Everyone has their ups and downs,” says Lawrence Olum. “Buddy Benches are a good concept, because they will help kids reach out and help each other.”


Timbers 1 FBThe Rose City Road Trip


Getting the Timbers involved in the benches and other activities was part of their Rose City Road Trip. Traveling around the area is a way for the Timbers and Providence Health & Sciences to reach out to their fan base, says Paulette McCoy Seaside Providence marketing and public relations manager.


“The Timbers have fans all over,” she says. “It is great they get out of the city. They were impressed with the Lower Columbia Youth Soccer Association fields. It’s a perfect combination of the soccer fields for their clinic and this idea for the Buddy Benches.”


Buddy Benches 6 FBJeffery says, “This is a unique opportunity to welcome the Timbers into the neighborhood. This program builds positive relationships. Everybody including the Timbers, the Thorns and our whole community benefit from this.”


Timbers players join kids on the soccer field for workouts. Olum inserts himself into a soccer match, sporting a pink shirt, to the delight of the older kids. Nagbe dribbles with a group of younger children, demonstrating skills they can aspire to.


Buddy Benches 3 FBTimber Joey says, “It is great to come out and see kids who have the potential to become professional athletes. They can see the athletes are normal people who can inspire them to work outside and enjoy the abilities they have.”


One homegrown soccer player, Jordan Gagnon, who has joined his family for years at LCYSA’S Camp Kick-A-Lot was at the field. He now works on events and promotions for the Timbers.


 “It’s very cool to come back to my stomping grounds and have the Timbers reaching out to small communities,” says Gagnon. “I see kids I coached and now they are all grown up.”


Timbers 4 FBThe Way to Wellville and its sponsor the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization support outdoor activities and the ideas of inclusion, compassion and empathy.


See video of the Timbers’ north coast tour: http://bit.ly/W2WTimbers

See NBC’s video of Buddy Benches: http://bit.ly/W2Wbuddy