Former Ulster Rugby star Paddy Wallace has visited Whiteabbey Primary to present the school with a number of ‘Buddy Benches’.
The Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism recently delivered its first set of Buddy Benches to primary schools throughout Northern Ireland. And the first four benches in Newtownabbey went to Whiteabbey Primary School, kindly donated by the school’s Parent Teacher Association and local companies Wilkinson Wilson Chartered Accountants and Massive PR.
The Fund’s ‘Buddy Bench’ initiative is designed to help propel its mission of raising awareness and eradicating the stigma associated with Autism through hands-on social projects in local schools and play areas.
The ‘Buddy Bench’ concept first came to popularity in 2013 when an eight-year-old American boy called Christian had the idea as a means to eliminate loneliness and foster friendships among children in the playground.
Taking inspiration from Christian, the Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism plans to roll the initiative out throughout the country and have a ‘Buddy Bench’ in every town throughout Northern Ireland.
Speaking about the initiative, Paddy Wallace said: “We’re delighted that our vision of bringing the ‘Buddy Bench’ to Northern Ireland is finally being brought to life. Through launching this initiative we want to promote inclusion throughout local communities, encourage children to be kind to one another and encourage children to reach out to each other.”
Co-Founder of the Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism, Christina Wallace added: “Each ‘Buddy Bench’ can be sponsored by a local organisation and to date we have had an overwhelming response from local businesses, individuals and schools wishing to purchase a Buddy Bench. A total of 31 benches have been delivered across Northern Ireland and more enquiries are coming in each day. Another 21 benches are available for delivery in the next few weeks and our aim is to get 200 delivered by the end of this year.”
Peter Wright, principal of Whiteabbey PS, welcomed the introduction of the initiative, saying: “We’re proud to be the first school in Newtownabbey to have Buddy Benches in our playgrounds. The addition of the benches is a great support system for the development of our children’s social skills, and will help to educate all pupils on the importance of kindness and inclusion.”
On the back of the success of the ‘Buddy Bench’ initiative, the Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism hope to roll out an exciting mindfulness programme for school children in September 2016.
For further details on the Buddy Bench scheme and the Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism visit www.paddywallacefundforautism.com
Anyone interested in sponsoring a Buddy Bench in their local area should contact Tina@paddywallace.com