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'You've got a friend in me' || Tenn. elementary school's buddy bench encourages kindness and inclusion

WBIR-TV Knoxville logo WBIR-TV Knoxville 9/5/2019 Katie Inman
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A new rainbow-colored sitting spot at a Kingston Elementary School provides an opportunity for students to reach out a helping hand and make friends at recess.

Midway Elementary School has a playground just like any other school. There's swings, steps and a slide. But over in the corner, there's something a little more special. 

It's called the Buddy Bench.

To explain how it works, a kindergartner provided insight.

"I just sitted on it and somebody else come played with me."

Taking a seat is an inclusion invitation to play or be a listening ear. That's according to Midway teachers Reagan Woodlee and Emily Smith.

"Often we'll see kids just walking around by themselves. I just always noticed that and don't want anybody to be by themselves," Woodlee explained.

So these two second and first grade teachers brought the idea for the sitting spot to parents.

"Luckily we had some great parents who were able to help us out," Smith said.

Two life-long buddies and Midway parents, Crystal Tilley and April Johnson, worked together to make sure the handmade, wooden furniture was as colorful as it was inspiring.

"Many coats of paint later… and lacquer," Johnson laughed. "It's just great to see that they enjoy it and love it and know what it's for cause everybody needs a buddy. Yeah. They need a buddy. No matter how old you are."

Gone are the days of lonely play time.

"I just hope they have fun with it and make friends," Tilley noted. "Lasting friendships. Cause it can happen. For years to come."

It all starts with taking a seat and reaching out a hand. The rung on the bottom of the bench reads "You've got a friend in me" from the popular song made famous in Toy Story.

The parents and teachers hope to see more buddy benches throughout the school's campus in the future.

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