Former Pinckney Elementary parent raising funds for ‘buddy benches’ at students’ new schools

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A former Pinckney Elementary parent is working with an arts-based youth program to bring memories of the now-closed school to students’ new schools. 

In partnership with Van Go artists as well as representatives from the two schools that most former Pinckney students will attend this coming fall, two benches will be created in Pinckney’s honor.


Maren Bradley, who served as the last Pinckney Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) president before the school closed, is asking for community donations to help fund the project.

“[The benches] will be a wonderful way to celebrate the legacy of Pinckney School and for those who took us Panthers in for years to come,” Bradley wrote in the online fundraiser page description.

The Lawrence school board in March voted to close Pinckney and Broken Arrow elementary schools as part of budget cuts. Under new boundaries the board approved, Pinckney students have been reassigned to Deerfield and Hillcrest elementary schools.

A Van Go mural covers the walls of the Pinckney school tunnel, which students, teachers, staff, families and members of the neighborhood have long used to cross under Sixth Street safely. Bradley wrote that she hopes adding similar art at both Deerfield and Hillcrest will bring familiarity to students as the benches will incorporate elements inspired by the tunnel and all three schools.

The “buddy benches” are meant to comfort students throughout their school transitions. Whenever a child might feel lonely, they can take a seat on a buddy bench and someone will come join them, the GoFundMe page said of the concept idea.

Bradley organized a GoFundMe with a goal of reaching $3,000 as each bench costs $1,500 to commission. Two Lawrence high school students in Van Go’s program will design them. As of Monday evening, the GoFundMe had raised almost $1,600.

Community members are invited to get a first look at the two benches as well others during Van Go’s Bench Unveiling Ceremony. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 28 at Van Go, 715 New Jersey St. in East Lawrence. 

Visit the GoFundMe page to learn more about the project and to donate.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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