New buddy bench installed at Whittier Elementary in Costa Mesa

Alice Formaneck, from left, Randy Lempert, Kristen Henry, Kim Turner and Ken DuFuor.
Whittier Elementary Assistant Principal Alice Formaneck, from left, Principal Randy Lempert, district mental health and wellness coordinator Kristen Henry, Patrick’s Purpose Foundation executive director Kim Turner and Exchange Club of Newport Beach president Ken DuFuor stand with the new bench.
(Courtesy of the Patrick’s Purpose Foundation)

Whittier Elementary was gifted with a new buddy bench Friday morning, thanks to the combined efforts of the Patrick’s Purpose Foundation and the Exchange Club of Newport Beach.

It’s one of a number of benches the foundation has installed throughout the Newport-Mesa Unified School District but the first in what executive director Kim Turner said is a multiyear partnership between the two organizations.

Four others have been installed in the district at Wilson and Sonora elementary schools and Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools by the foundation and local partners. There’s also a buddy bench at Stanford Elementary in Garden Grove.

Turner has said the concept of the buddy bench was not her idea but that the notion of installing them throughout the district’s 20-plus campuses had always appealed to her.

Etched into each bench are words from Turner’s son, Patrick “Patty” Turner, who died in 2018 by suicide: “Be nice to everyone, most importantly, be inclusive.”

“I’m just excited that our district has embraced this concept of kindness and inclusivity because that’s such an important message for our foundation and clearly what Patrick stood for,” Kim Turner said. “I would add also that there is a small curriculum that the district office has put together so that when the benches are placed, the kids are really taught the meaning behind so that they know the importance of the bench and how they can actively use it.”

Turner said the exchange club initially reached out to her and the foundation last spring to give a talk at one of its regular meetings. The club later reached out to Turner to establish a partnership, which she said will yield at least two or three benches every year until each campus in the district has one. The exchange club and the foundation split the cost of each $1,800 bench.

Whittier Elementary’s bench is located near the school’s playground in a shaded area by some trees.

A new buddy bench has been ordered for Rea Elementary in Costa Mesa to be installed in the fall, Turner said.

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