GREAT FALLS — Students at Mountain View Elementary School in Great Falls have a new way to get help if they’re feeling lonely - four “buddy benches” were dedicated at the school on Friday.
Great Falls High School junior Gabe Cunningham, who attended Mountain View, made them for his Eagle Scout project.
When students sit on the benches, that’s meant to be a signal to other students they’re feeling lonely and would like someone to talk or play with.
After the benches were delivered, Cunningham helped cut the ribbon to officially put them into use.
"I felt really happy to do that,” said Cunningham. "I worked on the benches for, probably, about 138 hours with adults and other Scouts in my troop."
"I had a great experience for all seven years (K-6th grade) and never forgot about the special teachers that made a difference in my life," said Gabe.
Mountain View sixth-grader Kaitlynn Fulbright was happy to see the benches: “They’re really cool and getting new friends would be great."
The lumber for the benches was donated by Johnson Madison and paint was donated by the Schulte family.
Buddy Benches are used in school playgrounds and lunchrooms all over the world. "The school playground can be a lonely place for a child if they haven't got anyone to play with. But a special type of bench is helping pupils make friends and get people talking about bigger issues, too," said Mountain View principal Jennifer Martyn.
She continued, "The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games."
Gabe began his Eagle Scout project in January, recording 138 hours of work. Each bench has 17 pieces of lumber and 80 screws. They are painted red, white, and blue to represent the school colors. He measured, cut, sanded, primed, and painted each piece of wood to construct the benches. He added, "I want to inspire a community of kindness because that is what my teachers showed me."