Southern California

“Now Other Kids Are Lonely Again”: Elementary School Buddy Bench Destroyed by Vandals

The boys behind the bench say they wanted it for the school so shy children "have someone to play with and they're not lonely."

Two Southern California boys are "devastated" after their custom-made buddy bench meant to foster friendships on the playground was destroyed by vandals over the weekend.

Earlier this year, Darren Dyberg, 10, and Dylan Tibbetts, 9, saw a video about a special bench that helped shy children make new friends, so they took action on behalf of Promenade Elementary School in Corona.

"I would see kids not playing with other kids, because they don't like them," Dylan said. "I just wanted to help kids find friends."

A Home Depot in Corona spent weeks starting in April building the custom-made benches. By the time they were completed, school was out for summer, so the staff stored the benches to prevent vandalism.

When the new school year began, Dylan and Darren couldn't wait to present the school staff and students with the two benches -- one for kindergarteners through first graders, and one for second through fifth graders.

"It makes me feel good," Darren said. "Because I know kids are going to have friends, and they have someone to play with and they're not lonely."

But Monday morning, no one was feeling great after seeing the older childrens' bench -- which was previously bolted to cement -- ripped from the ground and smashed.

"It looks like (the vandals) were skateboarding on it because there are marks on it," said Lori Copeland, principal of Promenade Elementary School.

Copeland said the bench improved students' lives during its short time at the school.

"We were really excited about this idea because our school and our school district have been working on anti bullying measures," Copeland said. "And this seemed like a really perfect way to tie into that."

Before the bench was vandalized, a third grade girl sat at the bench by herself -- alone until several students noticed her and came to the bench to make friends.

"This was for a good cause and you ruined it," Dylan said.

Now, Darren and Dylan are hoping to get the buddy bench replaced, and hoping that whoever is responsible won't do any more damage to something meant to bring people together.

"Now other kids are lonely again," Darren said.

Anyone with information should call Corona police.

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