Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jasmyn's Buddy Bench helps students find friends

Jasmyn "Jazzy" Smith

Thanks to the combined efforts of family members, school officials, and students, lonely children now have a place of refuge on two Columbia school playgrounds. Jasmyn's Buddy Bench, a specially lettered and painted wooden bench, is a sanctuary of sorts that alerts classmates and others to students in need of a friend. Inspired by "Christian's Buddy Bench," a similar project in York County, Jean Phiel enlisted the aid of several people in the project in memory of her granddaughter Jasmyn "Jazzy" Smith, who passed away suddenly at age 11 in August 2012. (Information on last year's Jazzy's Day event can be found HERE.)

Last fall, Mrs. Phiel read about Christian Bucks, a Roundtown Elementary School second-grader, who suggested a buddy bench for his school for students who feel as if they've been picked on, bullied, or not asked to play.  The affected student can then sit on the bench, signaling that something is wrong, to invite others to interact positively. According to the Christian's Buddy Bench website
“The buddy bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground.”

With the cooperation of Park and Taylor Elementary School principals, Mrs. Phiel coordinated the project with Maintenance Director Mike Miller, who ordered the materials. Tom DeLallo, Columbia High School's wood shop teacher, involved his classes in constructing the benches and attaching them to steel frames. In the process, they carved the title "Jasmyn's Buddy Bench" on each one.  Jasmyn's two sisters, Jailyn and Jada, and Jailyn's friend Gabe Grove, then painted the letters.  The first bench was installed at Park School the day after Memorial Day, and the Taylor bench was installed the day after that.
Both benches were paid for with funds raised through the Jazzy's Day program.

Mrs. Phiel recollects a story she says brings tears to her eyes. On the first day the benches were used, her son-in-law was stopped at a traffic light at Lancaster Avenue and Cherry Street and saw a student sitting on the bench. He then saw another person walk over and hold out a hand to the student - an invitation to play.

Jasmyn's Buddy Bench at the Park Elementary School playground

Detail of the above, showing the carved and hand-painted letters

Taylor Elementary's buddy bench


  1. This is a great idea, wish they had this when I was a kid.