By Terry Rogers
On Monday, April 13, staff at Mispillion Elementary School along with members of the Milford Lions Club, district and city officials dedicated a Buddy Bench in the memory of Randy Harp, a longtime Milford teacher who died of cancer in 2014. Mr. Harp taught at Milford Middle School, Benjamin Banneker Elementary School and Mispillion Elementary. When he was not in the classroom, he coached sports, was an active member of the Milford Lions Club and served as a Deacon at the Independent Bible Fellowship Church. The bench was dedicated by Susan Donahue, Principal of Mispillion Elementary.
“We thought long and hard about how we could honor Randy’s memory,” said Mrs. Donahue. “One day, Kelly Sharp came to me and mentioned and article she had discovered online about the Buddy Bench. The Buddy Bench is designed to eliminate loneliness, a place for children who may not have anyone to play with to sit so that teachers and other students can recognize that they may be feeling lonely. We knew this was the perfect choice to remember Randy.” Ms. Donahue said that if Mr. Harp saw a child on the playground with no one to play with, he would go play with the child himself.
Mike Hilligoss, Assistant Principal at Mispillion Elementary, said that Mr. Harp was one of the first people he met when he came to Milford as a teacher, relaying a story of how he was the victim of one of Mr. Harp’s famous practical jokes. He said that Mr. Harp’s sense of humor and dedication to all children contributed to his own success as a teacher and administrator.
The Buddy Bench began at Roundtown Elementary in Central York School District in York, Pennsylvania by Christian, a first grader, who saw the bench as a way to help students who were having difficulty finding friends to play with. Christian developed the idea when there was a possibility his family would have to move and while looking at the districts where he may attend, saw a bench on a German playground similar to what he developed for his own school. Christian did not move, but was instrumental in the creation of his school’s Buddy Bench.
When students sit on the bench, other students recognize that they are feeling lonely. Students may walk up and ask the student to play, or they may just sit and talk with them. Teachers can also join the student on the bench in order to engage the child in conversation.
“We talked about a lot of different ideas and when I saw this story on the news, I knew it was the perfect way to honor Randy,” said Kelly Sharp. “I knew that if we added the Buddy Bench in his honor, it would be a way to continue letting Randy guide and help students.”
Mr. Harp’s widow, Bev Harp, who is the Child Nutrition Supervisor at Milford School District, said that Mr. Harp would be very pleased at this dedication. “It is a beautiful day, so I am sure he is up there on the golf course somewhere,” Ms. Harp said. “I know he took a few minutes to look down on this and smile because Randy’s dedication was to students everywhere. This is the perfect way to honor his memory.”