County Fare: Fundraiser for school Buddy Bench nearly halfway to goal

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Parent Brianna Lamke has spent the past two years working on a project to raise money for a "Buddy Bench" for the Egremont Elementary School playground.

"It's a designated spot on the playground where children can sit if they are lonely or don't have anyone to play with," she said. "Other kids are taught to notice them there and invite them to play. With all of the violence and bullying going on in our local schools lately, I felt like this was such a small but impactful way to help."

Since there are no funds in the school's operating budget, she's launched a online fundraiser at gofund.me/v78ae54k.

Thus far, $395 of the $800 goal has been raised toward the project. Lamke said she'd like to be able to purchase and install a bench and also get a plaque to acknowledge its purpose and supporters.

She is hoping to wrap up the campaign this fall so that the school will see a Buddy Bench while her daughter is still a student there. Donors Andrea and Vernon Cross posted about the project: "Our children attend Egremont and I think this is a wonderful idea!"

According to a post on the GoFundMe webpage, the idea of the Buddy Bench was first proposed by a second-grade Pennsylvania boy, named Christian Bucks. Christian's family was relocating and he was concerned with how difficult it may be to make friends in a new environment and with some social anxieties.

As his story went public, many schools throughout the United States have adopted Christian's idea and have installed Buddy Benches in their school play yards, yielding much success and many new, unlikely friendships.

Learn more about Christian and his story and other Buddy Benches across the country at buddybench.org.

Your daily read

New York City public schools are participating in the "NYC Reads 365" campaign, and so is Alford author Jana Laiz.

The campaign aims to get people reading every day of the year.

Listed at the top of the Grade 5 recommended reading list is Laiz's book "A Free Woman on God's Earth: The True Story of Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman, the Slave Who Won Her Freedom."

"New York City public schools will be reading it in fifth grade and I'm so excited," Laiz said. Learn more about the campaign at schools.nyc.gov/academics/nycreads365.

Spectrum insight

The College Internship Program (CIP) Berkshire group will host a program Thursday by Stephen Shore, Ph.D., a consultant, CIP Advisory Board member, and author of "Autism For Dummies."

Shore's presentation will address issues facing students in grade school through higher education who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and other learning differences, including self-advocacy, sensory issues and success in higher education.

The program will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the organization's third-floor meeting space, 40 Main St., in Lee. A book signing will follow.

Diagnosed with "atypical development with strong autistic tendencies," Shore was viewed as "too sick" to be treated on an outpatient basis and recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until age 4, and with much help from his parents, teachers, and others, Shore completed his doctoral dissertation in special education at Boston University focused on matching best practice with the needs of people on the autism spectrum.

Recently, Shore has accepted a professorship at Adelphi University teaching courses in special education and autism.

Tickets are $40 general admission, which includes a light continental breakfast or a group rate of $25 per person in a group of three or more registered. To register, visit http://ow.ly/UtHNg or call 413-243-2576.

Bad guy = good role

Former Stockbridge resident Leif Steinert will be appearing on a segment of "Criminal minds" on Wednesday night.

According to his father, Leif Steinert Sr., his son is a 2004 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and a 2014 graduate of the New School in New York City. He moved to Los Angeles earlier this year.

This is his first television appearance and, as his father explained, had never actually seen "Criminal Minds." But he did earn $3,000 for his stint.

The younger Steinert is "a good lad, but he plays a bad guy" said his father. And he got a costar credit.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.


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