A Buddy Bench was provided to Binks Forest Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 11 by longtime Wellington residents Phyllis and Michael Gauger through Mental Health America of Palm Beach County’s Buddy Bench Campaign, which promotes kindness and inclusiveness.
Also at the event, Buddy Ambassadors — one boy and one girl picked from each class — were given certificates for their work in providing a more inclusive school environment. Teachers selected students who have exemplified what it means to be a buddy.
Michael Gauger is the chief deputy of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and has seen the consequences of bullying.
“About 160,000 children stayed home from school last year because they were being bullied,” he said. “An analysis of 37 school shootings found evidence of school bullying, ostracism and social rejection linked to two-thirds of those shootings. That tells you how important this program is. Acts of bullying can lead to devastating and at times fatal consequences.”
Buddy Ambassadors Director Loverly Sheridan, author of the book Be a Buddy, Not a Bully, was also on hand for the event. Sheridan read excerpts from her book.
Binks Forest is the 16th Palm Beach County school to receive a Buddy Bench. The goal is for each of the district’s nearly 180 schools to have one. Each bench costs $1,500.
“The Wellington community has been so good to us,” Gauger said. “My wife and I donated this, and we want others to step forward and help provide benches to all the other schools here.”
For more information on donating a Buddy Bench to local schools, contact Mental Health America of Palm Beach County at (561) 832-3755 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the program at www.mentalhealthpbc.org.