Exchange Club Helps Fund Buddy Bench Project

By Deborah Gertz Husar
Staff Writer | 217-221-3379 dhusar@whig.com |
@DHusarWHIG
QUINCY — Everybody needs a buddy, and finding one can be as simple as sitting on a bench.

Five Buddy Benches, delivered Thursday to Quincy Public Schools and destined for the five new K-5 buildings, will encourage inclusion and diversity at the elementary level – thanks to some help from Quincy High School students.

Students in Karissa Ham’s anatomy and physiology classes collected 400,000 bottle caps to recycle into the blue benches designed to promote friendship and curb loneliness on the playground.
When a child feels lonely or left out, or needs a friend to play with, he or she can sit on the bench. When other students see someone sitting on the bench, the idea is they will come and say do you want to talk or want to play.

“Every kid should be loved no matter who they are,” said QHS senior Jaeden Smith, who helped collect, clean and count the caps. “Having the benches can be very helpful. They can make new friendships to last a lifetime.”

Ham said the project started as a way to provide a prosthetic limb for a young boy. After collecting the caps, the boy no longer needed them, “so we wanted to do something for the community,” she said. “We came up with the idea of Buddy Benches, a big thing now in lots of school districts, but Quincy didn’t have them.”
Along with collecting the caps, the students had to raise about $700 to provide the benches. A GoFund-Me campaign brought in $240, and the Quincy Exchange Club covered the rest. McNay Trucking partnered with the project to deliver the caps to Indiana and pick up the benches.

Dennis Koch, a member of the Quincy Exchange Club and Region 3 vice president for the national organization, said the club looks forward to working with other schools on similar projects. “They did all the heavy lifting, collecting all the caps. We had the easy part. We wrote a check,” he said. “It’s a credit to the high school kids. Collecting that many caps had to take a while, a lot of perseverance.”

Smith said students collected as many caps as they could and were pleased to get involved with the bench project. Ham said the project helps her students work for the greater good. “Something as small as picking up a bottle cap can have a big impact on what a child takes away from their time at school,” she said. “We hear too many stories about bullying and how it affects kids for the rest of their life. If we have a part in lessening that, making sure kids are not feeling that, that’s awesome.”