MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Buddy Bench, a dedicated place at school playgrounds where a student can sit if feeling lonely or bullied, has generated national attention in recent years and has even been given a TED Talk.

Lakeview Elementary debuted a buddy bench last year and was successful in spreading compassion and connectedness on the playground. To instill these values, Lakeview’s building technology leader and kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Borst, incorporated the buddy bench into STEM curriculum. She challenged students to engineer a tool or structure that would help someone when they are looking for a friend or feel lonely.

Mahopac Middle School eighth-grader Becca Lomas decided to extend the Buddy Bench ideology, as part of her bat mitzvah, by raising funds so a bench can be in her school, as well as Fulmar Road Elementary, and Austin Road Elementary where her younger brother, Jake, is a student. She created a fundraising campaign appealing to the Mahopac community to help her raise money for the three benches. 

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Part of her fundraising efforts included submitting a letter to the editor in Mahopac News explaining her buddy bench efforts. In the April 12, edition, her letter was placed in the paper next to another letter from MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County executive, honoring the passing of community leader “Buddy” Decker. A family member of Decker’s was so moved by Becca’s project that she made a donation in Buddy’s name. 

A retired Mahopac Middle School teacher, Laura Dell, was also touched by Becca’s letter and reached out to her with a donation and book about life transitions.

“It’s heart-warming to see the ‘Mahopac Way’ shine through students like Becca,” said Tom Cozzercrea, middle school principal. “Her contribution of a Buddy Bench to the middle school gives us a physical symbol of the values we want to see in each other throughout our campus,”

There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Becca and her family to honor her buddy bench gift.  Fellow eighth graders celebrated her generosity and the buddy bench installation to their playground.

Article provided by Mahopac School District