- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - A Dubuque third-grader has become the driving force behind the installation of a “buddy bench” at her school, where children can signal to others that they’d like a playmate.

Clare Vosberg-Padget, 8, is scheduled to meet with her principal at Hoover Elementary School to figure out the logistics of getting approval for the bench, the Telegraph Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1iPK12S ). She’s already met with several people in her community to brainstorm.

The bench would help kids needing a friend during recess. Students can ask a kid at the bench if they need to talk or if they want to play.

“Sometimes at recess, I see kids sitting out, and they are too scared to ask people (to play),” Clare told the newspaper.

Clare said she was inspired by a second-grader in Pennsylvania who helped get a buddy bench at his school. She was also inspired by her older sister, Madie Vosberg, a sixth-grader who was diagnosed with epilepsy and had brain surgery as a baby. Clare said her sister had little time to make friends because of medical treatments.

“This is just her. She has a huge heart,” said Trish Szalkowski, Clare’s mother.

The effort has turned to social media to ramp up support. A Facebook page has encouraged responses from community members interested in seeing benches in every Dubuque school.

For now, Clare is focused on getting the first one in place. Kathleen Walech-Haas, principal at Hoover, said she was excited to meet with Clare.

“It’s certainly something I think will be a great addition at Hoover,” Walech-Haas said. “Clare is a remarkable young girl, and I think she is a role model for a lot of people.”

Clare said she will seek financial support from the community once she gets approval from the school district for the bench. In the meantime, she also hopes to have monthly play events in the Dubuque area. She’s working with ResourcesUnite, a community organization.

“She’s an amazing 8-year-old, and I think it’s incredibly inspiring,” said Josh Jasper, who works with ResourcesUnite.

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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