By Abigail Baker
Buckhorn Elementary School was riddled with grief when Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) student Brooke Simmons drowned in her family pool Memorial Day weekend 2016.
Nearly a year later, on Wednesday, May 24, three Buddy Benches and a plaque were unveiled with a ribbon cutting in Simmons honor.
“Her (Simmons) family was delighted, “said PTA board member, Abigail Boyce. “They put a butterfly on the plaque, which is her symbol.”
Simmons mother and two brothers, who also attend the school, were present along with the PTA, students and faculty. Her bench will stand near the younger children’s playground.
The traditionally blue benches themselves are not designed for the standard purposes. Students who feel alone or do not have a playmate are instructed to sit on them, and other children will come to the rescue.
“Some of the students from up north that had the benches at their old schools were really excited,” Boyce said. “It helps current students reach out and be respectful.”
The concept of the Buddy Benches came into play for Buckhorn over a year ago, but when the school was rejected for a grant, everyone was disappointed. Fortunately, the PTA members of Buckhorn were not ready to let the idea go.
Through an entire year of fundraising and pushing, the school finally raised enough funds for the three benches, and now one stands on each playground.
The school plans to fully explain the idea of the benches to all the students and work to implement the concept, so that all students feel comfortable participating.
“We get a lot of military families, so it’s hard for those kids especially.” Boyce said. “People say military brats are used to it but it’s still hard.”