Gulfport girl receives donation to install Buddy Benches at elem - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport girl receives donation to install Buddy Benches at elementary schools

Buddy Benches are spreading across the Coast. (Photo source: WLOX) Buddy Benches are spreading across the Coast. (Photo source: WLOX)

A young girl's campaign to foster friendship and fight bullying will soon spread to other elementary schools in Gulfport. The student recently donated a Buddy Bench to her school.

A Gulf Coast restaurant company found out about her gift and decided to contribute to the cause. 

Marissa Wingerter's circle of friends has grown since a bright, orange bench was installed on the school playground two weeks ago.

"I've made really nice friends who I didn't know," said Marissa.

Marissa is a fourth grader at Bayou View Elementary in Gulfport. She donated the Buddy Bench to her school so that students who don't have anyone to play with at recess can sit on it. Also, other students are encouraged to invite their lonely classmates to join in on the fun.

Kona Ice paid for the bench. Marissa and her friends painted it.

"I feel sad that they don't have someone to play with, but happy that the bench is getting used and that other people will ask them to play. There's never been bullying here, but if there ever was, it's definitely stopped by now,” said Marissa.

Marissa wanted to install Buddy Benches at every school in Gulfport. She started a fundraising campaign, which caught the attention of Shaggy's restaurants on the Gulf Coast.

"We were looking for a service project in Gulfport and we found Marissa's GoFundMe account. The bench is bringing the kids together and we want to be a part of that," said Shaggy's spokeswoman Marcella Richardson.

"I think it's such a great idea. When I was a child, we moved around a lot, and I can only imagine what this type of bench does for kids who are in that similar situation," Marissa added.

Shaggy's had six wooden benches built, one for each elementary school in Gulfport.

"I thought, Wow, a lot of people really care, and I can't believe they would do this for us. And I think that this is going to make the world a really better place," said Marissa.

Marissa won't stop until every child in South Mississippi has a friend. Her message is simple: Be a Buddy, not a Bully.

"I just want it to spread a lot more, because I want the whole universe to have friends. A lot of people said they love the Buddy Bench and they're making a lot of new friends on it and they're really happy that we donated it and it looks really good," said Marissa.

Shaggy's will also donate a Buddy Bench to Hiller Park in Biloxi and install one at its new restaurant in downtown Gulfport. 

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