Roberta Simoneau stands by the Buddy Bench created by her husband, Donald, for the Fayette Central School. Submitted photo

Fifth grade students Ellie Harmon, Brody Hemminger, and Mason Smith inspect the new Buddy Bench at Fayette Central School. Submitted photo

At left Tara Morin and Roberta Simoneau at right unveil the Buddy Bench. At far right is Courtney Lyons special education director at FCS.

FAYETTE — Fayette Central School (FCS) found a great place to put their new Buddy Bench. What is the Buddy Bench? The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground.

Fayette resident Donald Simoneau remembers seeing a story on WCSH 6 about a kid who wanted a Buddy Bench for his school. Being someone with a big heart and a lot of woodworking tools and talent, he decided to see if FCS had one.

“Don contacted me to see if we had a buddy bench at the school. We did not, so even in his ill health he took on the project to make one for us,” said Tara Morin, superintendent/principal at the school. She added that the bench had been delivered to the school on Sept. 20 and they tucked it away, as they wanted Simoneau to make the presentation. Due to ill health, he could not. Roberta, his wife however, left work at 12:30 after being at work at 4 a.m. for inventory, and came to FCS.

After moving the bench (covered) out to the tar, staff and students came out. Morin began by asking if they knew what a Buddy Bench was? Many students explained that it was a bench for someone who needs a friend. She then asked if the school had a Buddy Bench, and the answer was a resounding NO!

Morin asked the children, “If we did have a Buddy Bench, what would you say to someone who was sitting on it?” Their replies ranged from, “Do you need a friend?” “Do you want to play with us?” or “Let’s go play together!”

Roberta Simoneau explained how there came to be a buddy bench. When they were raising their three kids, they did a lot for the school. Now, with no children at home anymore they still wanted to show that FCS still has a place in their hearts. When she finished, she helped Morin removed the drop cloth and revealed the new FCS Buddy Bench!

“So glad they like it. It was built with love and fantastic memories of our three children who attended the school. I am sorry I couldn’t go to the school with it, but my health prevented me from going but my wife went in my place,” Donald Simoneau said.

There were a few rough spots, he said, namely getting the words “Buddy Bench” on the back. He tried to carve them in, but that was too time-consuming and difficult. He ended up using stick-on letters under many coats of finish. “Those letters will last for years,” he added.

Morin also noted that before COVID, Don always came in to teach the fifth graders about properly raising and lowering the flag. Every fifth grader has the chance to do this as one of their jobs.

“I gave the fifth graders the privilege to decide where it goes for the year. Each fifth grade class will have the opportunity to decide where the bench will be for the year- a new tradition, thanks to the kind heart and steady, hardworking hands of Don and the kind heart and generous work of Roberta,” said Morin

FCS now has a tool that helps bring children together, and makes them feel included, thanks to the generous work and donation of the Simoneaus.

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