Buddy Ambassadors is a local organization founded by Palm Beach Illustrated 2019 Educator of the Year recipient Loverly Sheridan. The program promotes kindness, empathy, compassion and inclusivity in children. The award-winning author and program director creates campaigns and workshops to help empower children to soar educationally and develop positive social and emotional skills, which helps them to succeed in school and life.
Now, due to COVID-19, the program has gone virtual. Whether it’s in person or virtually, Sheridan thinks it’s important that the group continues on its mission of spreading kindness and providing mental health support to children during these unprecedented times. Now that children are returning to school, it is a perfect time to start instilling those values again.
“These are very uncertain and challenging times for children, and although children are resilient, it’s important that we make their mental health a priority, just as we do their physical health, and provide them with the tools that they need to cope,” Sheridan said.
Although her Buddy Bench campaign has been placed on hold due to the pandemic, Sheridan continues to find creative ways to help kids spread cheer and kindness to others, with the “COVID-19 Kindness Social Media Campaign,” where children from various schools create their own unique posters with kind messages, which they share online to cheer others. Sheridan has also developed online workshops with live Zoom sessions to help keep kids engaged and provide them with the tools they need to cope during the pandemic. These workshops include: Mindfulness, Etiquette 101, Storytelling, Money Matters, Public Speaking and others.
In 2018, Sheridan partnered with Mental Health America of Palm Beach County to support mental health in children by introducing the Buddy Ambassadors Program in local schools. The program creates safe spaces and encourages children to be a buddy, by using the “Buddy Bench” as a tangible tool to reach out to others. It also recognizes student leaders who exemplify what it means to be a buddy. Those leaders are named “Buddy Ambassadors.”
To date, the group has placed Buddy Benches in almost 30 schools in Palm Beach County and recognized hundreds of Buddy Ambassadors, thanks to the generous sponsorships of various organizations and individuals, notably, the Rotary Club of Wellington, the Vertical Bridge Charitable Network, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Allen Real Estate Properties, Garden Orthodontics, Nissan, Chris Allen Homes and others.
Sheridan is looking forward to welcoming kids back to school with the Buddy Bench and the “Be a Buddy” campaign.
“Now, more than ever, we feel that its very important to encourage kids to be a buddy, and be kind to their peers, because they’ve all been through a lot,” she said. “This will be a great way to welcome them back”
Dana Pallaria is principal at New Horizons Elementary School in Wellington, whose school is set to receive a Buddy Bench sponsored by the Rotary Club of Wellington.
“It will be nice to have a celebration of kindness and happiness together,” Pallaria said.
Visit www.buddyambassadors.com to learn more about Buddy Ambassadors and the programs, or to sponsor a bench or program for a school.