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Friday, 16 October 2015 09:02

Students sit the bench, take a stand against bullying

Written by  Edwin Scherzer
A golf outing this summer raised $60,000 for the Buddy Bench program organized by Scherrer Construction Co. of Burlington. When placed in schools, the benches act as a safe place for students to go if they’re being bullied and as a place where students can befriend each other. A golf outing this summer raised $60,000 for the Buddy Bench program organized by Scherrer Construction Co. of Burlington. When placed in schools, the benches act as a safe place for students to go if they’re being bullied and as a place where students can befriend each other. Submitted photo

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words ... “ It’s a sentence almost everyone can finish. Being teased, called names and the like are all part of childhood (and sometimes parts of adulthood). Some of it’s good-natured, some not.

Even today, when anti-bullying campaigns abound, bullying is a very real, personal experience for the victim. Schools have more on their plate than ever these days, and even the most dedicated anti-bullying efforts can’t catch everyone.

With schools and communities in mind, Scherrer Construction in Burlington stepped up to give schools -- and bullying victims --  a break in the form of a bench. The Scherrer Cares Buddy Bench program, while not a new idea, puts the issue of bullying in a visible location and keeps conversation going about the issue.

According to Scherrer, the benches, which are placed in schools, have a three-fold purpose as:

• a place for children to go if they are being bullied and need help;

• a place for children to be a buddy by spreading kindness and building friendships;

• a tool to help prevent bullying.

Jim Scherrer, president and CEO, said he felt the partnership was a great fit “with our 87-year history of construction management services and a number of those projects being in the K-12 school construction industry.

“We felt we not only wanted to help enhance the physical building environment, but wanted to help make a positive change in the classroom environment.”

The brightly colored benches are placed in a visible area, and Scherrer Cares coordinates the presentation and installation of the display board and Buddy Bench in an indoor area, such as a commons or cafeteria. School officials then monitor the area and use the bench as part of their already-established anti-bullying program.

Both Scherrer and a former manager had firsthand experience with bullying and decided to act.

“We wanted to help with the bullying problem that is happening to our kids inside of our schools and communities,” he said.

The benches cost about $1,500, a cost that is totally underwritten by corporate and private donors. Schools must submit an essay and an application.

Schools pay nothing for the bench; they are just asked to help support the message.

An outing at Hawk’s View Golf Course this summer raised $60,000 for the program and featured former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and program supporter Bill Schroeder.

Currently, Scherrer is in negotiations to place benches in Burlington Area School District schools, St. Mary School in Burlington, Oconomowoc schools, Salem Grade School and others. In addition, the company is in discussions with another 20 schools or organizations about getting benches.

Benches are ready to be delivered, installed and a presentation made to Williams Bay High School, as soon as the new construction phase is complete.

Seeing the signature benches in more than one location is key, said Amy Wolski, Scherrer Construction marketing assistant.

“If kids start to see the bench in their elementary schools and then as they move through their school years, they continue to see the benches, it will hopefully stick with them and serve as a constant reminder of the issue,” Wolski said.

The program is off to a good start, when one considers all of this started as a committee/advisory meeting a year ago.

Scherrer’s first bench was presented to Omro Elementary School in Omro.

Scherrer doesn’t want to just put benches in Wisconsin schools. The company currently is designing a brochure that the bench manufacturer, Palmer Hamilton, will use nationwide to promote the benches and the anti-bullying message. Benches that are sold outside of Wisconsin will have a percentage of the sale go back into the  Buddy Bench program here in the Badger State.

No matter how far the program spreads or how many benches are placed, Joe Scherrer’s mission is a simple one: “If we can help one child, we feel this program has been a complete success.”

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