Anyone looking to cure loneliness during recess at
Walnut Hills Elementary only has to look as far as the bright blue bench poised
at the edge of the playground.
The motto stenciled in the metal of the seat is the
first clue that the bench serves a greater purpose than a simple place to sit.
The phrase “Friendships Bloom On Our Buddy Bench” is both a proclamation and a
statement of purpose.
“Whenever somebody needs a buddy, they can sit on the
bench,” said Rinoa Murr, the 11-year-old who made the initial push for the
playground addition. “Someone will come up and ask if they’re OK, and a new
friendship can bloom.”
Murr, who is quick to point out that she “likes helping
people,” found inspiration for the Buddy Bench concept in similar efforts at
schools in Florida. The more poignant motivation came from what she saw every
day at her own school.
“I saw people and I knew people who didn’t have any
buddies,” she said. “I saw a bunch of people who wanted a friend.”
Murr spoke up about her concerns first to her mother,
Sarah Murr, and then to the Walnut Hills principal, Cyndi Burdick. Murr’s
interest in the well-being of her fellow classmates struck a chord, and the
fundraising efforts took off from there. That push included themed events at
the school like ‘Popcorn Day,’ ‘Hat Day’ and other themed events.
According to Sarah Murr, this brand of selflessness
isn’t atypical of her daughter. A self-proclaimed artist and poet, Rinoa is
constantly concerned with the world around her. She’s taken an active role at
her school, serving on the Student Council and offering input and action.
“She noticed so many kids didn’t have friends. She
wanted to do something,” Sarah Murr said. “She wrote an essay, she talked to
the principal. She was prepared to raise money. I am so proud of her.
“I can see she’s going to go far,” Sarah Murr added.
Rinoa Murr’s hard work will ensure she’ll leave a
legacy at Walnut Hills long after the 2015-16 school year ends and she heads to
West Middle School. That much was clear on May 13, when Principal Burdick
joined a crowd of students and staff to formally dedicate the bench. Burdick
revealed a plaque that read “Thank you Rinoa Murr for wanting every child to
have a buddy!”
Rinoa said she plans to bring that same effort to her
next school. As summer break nears, the 11-year-old is already making plans to
contribute to the happiness and comfort of the community at West Middle School.
She’s contemplating getting involved with the student council, and considering
making a push to make sure every student has a buddy.
“I’m thinking of getting a Buddy Bench at West as
well,” she said.