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Friendship Games Showcases Eighth Graders’ Compassion and Kindness

The+students+who+participated+in+the+Friendship+Games+carry+a+banner+around+Reback+to+kick+off+the+day.
The students who participated in the Friendship Games carry a banner around Reback to kick off the day.

The students who participated in the Friendship Games carry a banner around Reback to kick off the day.

Jakob Mendelsohn

Jakob Mendelsohn

The students who participated in the Friendship Games carry a banner around Reback to kick off the day.

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Robby Heil, a senior at Novi High School in Novi, Michigan, is the waterboy for the school’s football team. Born with Down syndrome, Heil never had the chance to play football. However, earlier this fall, to show how important he is to the team, the Novi High School football players, along with the opposing team, came together with a plan to let Heil to score a touchdown in their game. This not only made Heil’s day, but his mother, who has terminal bone cancer, was euphoric. According to www.cnn.com, Mrs. Heil “dropped to the ground because [she] was so emotional.”

This just shows that the smallest actions can make someone’s day. The Benjamin School set out to do that during the annual Friendship Games on Friday, January 20. That day, the eighth graders travelled to the Upper School Campus to volunteer as score keepers, face painters, and fans of more than 300 special needs students who competed in a number of contests. The events included a 100-yard dash, softball throw, long jump, and carnival games.The students came from schools throughout Palm Beach County, including Allamanda Elementary School, Renaissance Learning Academy, and Dwyer High School.

“I enjoyed helping the students because it was rewarding to see them with a smile on their faces,” said eighth grader Molly Fried. “My favorite part of the event was watching and cheering on the kids during the running events. It meant a great deal to the students because we took the time to create the day for them.”

Jakob Mendelsohn
A young competitor rejoices after catching a “fish” in the kiddie pool.

Fellow eighth grader Cole Jernstedt agreed. “It was great to see the smiles on all of the kids faces, and it really showed us how fortunate we are,” said Jernstedt. “This day taught me that whenever some of my friends says how bad their life is, they need to see it in someone else’s point of view. We take for granted how lucky we are to live in Florida and be able to go to this school. I think this meant the world to the [special needs] kids.”

Danai Makoni, another eighth grader, loved the heart-warming experience, and she was so happy to have been able to make someone’s day.
“My favorite part of the event was when this girl around 15 started dancing when we were playing a game, and she fell onto the ground. I ran as fast as I could and she gave me this response, ‘I am fine, it’s just part of my dance moves, but I really like you and your friend, [Olivia Cornett]. I love happy people because it makes me feel happy, and you guys are the nicest and happiest people I have ever met.’ That experience made my heart swell with joy that I was doing some things right.”

Not only did the eighth graders really enjoy this day, but the teachers involved feel like this is one of the best and most important days of the year.

“I went over merely as a volunteer,” said Middle School Academic Dean Dr. Tina James. “In fact, this is the first year I have ever gone. Mrs. Melone is such an inspired person, who does this event every year. It was her idea thirteen years ago to start this, and Mrs. Devine, when Mrs. Malone’s son was in her advisory, came together to put the whole event on. Every year, [the eighth] graders acquitted themselves with so much empathy and kindness, and even though [it was hot [outside, they] made their day. I can’t imagine something better that we can do that would make those people happy.”

Middle School English Department chair Mrs. Kathleen Devine runs the entire event, and has done so for the past 13 years. “I love this day for two big reasons,”explained Devine. “One, because we are able to do a service for the community to help the kids in the special programs in the public schools have a field day which they do not have any longer because [of cuts to] the public budget. The second reason is because of the eighth grade students – it brings out the best in them.”

Even though it was a lot of preparation, Devine feels it was well worth it. “It is a lot of coordination work, but other than that, it is a work of joy.”

She even got calls from the caretakers and teachers at the other schools telling her how much fun they had during the day.

“This year, we had about 350 kids and 100 caretakers. I learned that the eighth grade are really willing to dig in and help people less fortunate than themselves in order to give them a great day. Every second is worth it. I emailed and called [the teachers and caretakers], and most of them agreed that these past years were the best organized and their kids had the most fun. So that is a tribute to the eighth grade because it is the personality of the eighth grade students that either make or break the day.”

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The official student news site of The Benjamin Middle School in North Palm Beach, FL
Friendship Games Showcases Eighth Graders’ Compassion and Kindness