Traeh Cloutier, 8, sits on the buddy bench he helped to get installed on the playground at Greene Central School. Traeh said he hopes the bench will give kids a place to make friends. The bench is dedicated to Brayden Madore, a student at the school who died at 9 in April. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

GREENE — Traeh Cloutier, a third-grader at Greene Central School, has always been one to offer help to those who needed it.

His mother, Chrissy, said that since he was old enough to walk, Traeh, now 8, would ask people if they needed help with tasks and would see them through to completion.

She was not surprised, therefore, when Traeh, after learning in April that a fellow student, Brayden Madore, 9, had died, asked her if they could memorialize Madore by installing a buddy bench at Greene Central School.

“It completely made sense to me when he asked,” Chrissy said. “He’s a very compassionate and caring person, and he’s a worker. When he gets an idea, he wants to see it through to the end.”

Chrissy said that a few years ago, she learned about buddy benches, which were special benches installed at schools or public parks meant to encourage students to socialize with one another and form bonds.

Traeh said he hoped a buddy bench at Greene Central would help students feel “that they’re not ever left out.”

“It brings kindness to the school,” Traeh said.

With Traeh adamant about getting a buddy bench installed at Greene Central, Chrissy and her son brainstormed ways they could pitch the idea to Principal Douglas Parker.

Traeh settled on drawing a picture of the proposed bench, which he presented by himself to Parker.

“I was excited that if he said (yes), we’d be able to get the bench,” Traeh said. “I was also nervous to talk to him though.”

Parker, who was on board with Traeh’s idea, suggested he make a presentation to the school’s Care Team, a group of older students who work to combat bullying in the school.

After the Care Team gave Traeh a thumbs-up, all that was required was a funding source.

Chrissy said her husband and Traeh’s father, Peter, who is also the president of the Greene Youth Athletic Association, agreed to partially fund the buddy bench.

The Androscoggin County Employees Association, of which Brayden’s father is a member, also agreed to help fund the bench.

Just before Collette Monuments in Lewiston began construction on the bench, Traeh asked if the bench could be dedicated to Madore.

It was an idea that everyone could get behind, and on Oct. 23 the finished bench was installed just outside of the Greene Central School playground with the words “Buddy Bench” engraved at the top and “In Memory of Brayden Madore” engraved below.

Chrissy said she hopes the bench can serve as a place where “you can have a friend.”

“It’s a nice opportunity to teach children about compassion, empathy and kindness,” Chrissy said. “Often times, we preach to kids to be kind and caring, but we don’t have the tools to show them. This can be that tool.”

Traeh said if kids are feeling lonely on the playground, they can sit on the bench, which would signal to other children that they are looking for a friend.

“I’ve seen kids using it already,” Traeh said, adding that he has used it himself. “People will come up to me and talk.”

While Traeh is not the first person to suggest the idea of a buddy bench, Chrissy said since she posted about his idea on social media, other schools within and away from the district have expressed interest in installing buddy benches, including Leeds Central School, where Chrissy works as a nurse.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of positive feedback from people,” she said, “and if Traeh’s idea can inspire others to do the same thing, that’s perfect.”

Chrissy added that schools do not have to install buddy benches to get the point across.

“You can even put a stick in the ground and label it the “Friendship Tree” or something,” Chrissy said. “All that matters is that children learn how to spread kindness and compassion to each other. There’s so much negativity in the world. We need a little more kindness.”

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