FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) As part of its 10th anniversary, AWS Foundation is donating 10 buddy benches to area schools to promote friendship for all people of all abilities.
The idea behind the buddy bench is to teach children about the importance of inclusion. Each bench displays an original design created by a local artist to honor four of the founding members of AWS: Ian Rolland, Ben Eisbart, Andy Brooks and Patti Hays.
“As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, it is important to recognize and honor the work done by several of our foundation’s founding board members as they retire from the board. With the community’s recent loss of Ian Rolland, this recognition seemed even more poignant,” said Tom O’Neill, AWS Foundation Board Chair.
According to AWS, while it’s common for any child to go through at least some period of social discomfort, studies show that children with intellectual and developmental disabilities tend to be less accepted by their peers, struggle more in social situations and experience feelings of isolation for extended periods. The buddy bench is a concept that’s been adopted by educators around the world to support social acceptance.
The 10 buddy benches will be placed at the following schools:
- Forest Park Elementary-Artist, Justin Johnson in Memory of Ian Rolland
- Memorial Park-Artist, John Leavell in Honor of Ben Eisbart
- Haley Elementary-Artist, Alex Hall in Honor of Andy Brooks
- Fairfield Elementary-Artist, Vicki Junk-Wright in Honor of Patti Hays
- Little Turtle Elementary-Artist, Dan Dienelt
- Holland Elementary-Artist, Julie Wall
- Heritage Elementary-Artist, Jerrod Tobias
- McKenney Harrison Elementary-Artists, Jody Nix, Mackenzie Lepper, Brittney Renninger & Erica Garcia
- Adams Central Elementary-Artist, Jon Detweiler
- Bluffton Harrison Elementary-Artist, Frank Louis Allen
The mission of AWS is to help children and adults with enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities live as independently as possible, be included in the community and function at their highest potential.