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Morristown Elementary buddy bench promotes building new friendships

From left, Zach Crisman, Ryan Crisman, Marley Ayers and Tabitha Crisman sit on the buddy bench atthe Morristown Elementary School playground.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

MORRISTOWN — When a Morristown Elementary School student is looking for a new friend to play with during recess, all he or she has to do is sit down at a green bench that rests against a fence next to the playground.

That’s because a buddy bench, which is intended to encourage other students to come offer their friendship when someone sits down, was recently added because of the persistence of two fifth graders.

Ryan Crisman and Marley Ayers first brought up the idea last year to principal John Corn after seeing another student who was left alone crying, wanting to play with someone. Crisman and Ayers, who are cousins, approached Corn with the idea, who thought it was a good one.

“When no one has anyone to play with at recess, we wanted them to have someone to play with,” Crisman said.

Ayers said a year ago, they saw the other student crying after another refused to play with them.

“So we thought it would be good idea to make something so that they would have someone to play with no matter what,” she said.

The sign above the bench says “Friendships bloom on the buddy bench” and “If you can be anything be kind.”

Corn said the materials for the sign were donated by Holly Simpson at Signs and More in Shelbyville.

He said he was proud of the students for “making sure that everyone has a friend and spreading kindness.”

“I was just so proud,” he said. “So proud that they were trying to promote kindness and be a friend to everybody and anti-bullying and doing the right thing. And trying to make the world a better place. That’s what they’re trying to do. So I’m very, very proud.”

Ayers’ mother, Tabitha Crisman, said she was shocked and overwhelmed when her daughter first approached her with the idea.

Ayers has dealt with some bullying in the past, Tabitha Crisman said, and knows what it’s like to be picked on.

“Therefore, she wants to change it and make it a better place,” she said. “She doesn’t want to see anybody hurt or picked on because she’s been in that position before.”

Zach Crisman, Ryan’s father and Rachel’s brother, said he was proud of them for working together.

The bench has been in the works since last year, Corn said. The children and their families worked with maintenance director Jeff Scott to make it a reality.

Tabitha, Zach and Rachel Crisman (Ryan’s mom) encouraged their children to continue pursuing their goal when it didn’t immediately come to fruition.

“If you want something, keep working at it,” Ryan said.

“You have to try and you have to chase after it sometimes, and that’s what they did,” Tabitha added. They didn’t give up. They didn’t stop.”

The cousins are 38 days apart and while they aren’t siblings, their relationship resembles that of brother and sister.

“They’re like twins separated at birth,” Tabitha Crisman said. “They should have been brother and sister but they’re cousins. They are extremely close. They hate each other and love each other. They defend each other, but lord when that door shuts, they’re at each others’ throats. But they’re just good kids.”