From left: Lindsay Kusisto (Paul’s sister), Allyson Wagner, Jennell Stanley, Chris Pieper (Anita’s husband), Jordan Stanley, Chad Pieper (Anita’s son) and Chad Wagner, at the site of the new Buddy Bench installed in honour of Paul Whyte at Bastion Elementary in Salmon Arm. (Contributed)

From left: Lindsay Kusisto (Paul’s sister), Allyson Wagner, Jennell Stanley, Chris Pieper (Anita’s husband), Jordan Stanley, Chad Pieper (Anita’s son) and Chad Wagner, at the site of the new Buddy Bench installed in honour of Paul Whyte at Bastion Elementary in Salmon Arm. (Contributed)

‘Buddy Bench’ installed at Salmon Arm school in memory of former student

Paul Whyte attended Bastion Elementary from 1993-97, and passed away in 2020

A bench with a special meaning has been installed at Bastion Elementary School in Salmon Arm.

It’s a bench that encourages students to look out for each other, and it’s been built to honour a former student, Paul Whyte.

School District No. 83 North Okanagan-Shuswap (SD83) District Principal, Jennifer Findlay, provided details about the bench project.

Whyte was born in Victoria in 1984. He moved to Salmon Arm in 1993, and attended Bastion Elementary until 1997, when he was in Grade 7. Graduating from Salmon Arm Senior Secondary in 2002, Whyte went on to become an accomplished helicopter pilot, talented photographer and avid traveler.

Missed by many, Whyte will be remembered for his kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity. His family is honoured to have a Buddy Bench installed in his name at Bastion, said Findlay.

The Buddy Bench Project began after the sudden passing of beloved certified education assistant Anita Pieper in 2018. Pieper’s family wanted to honour her memory in a special way, which is why they chose Buddy Benches, said Findlay. There are now five Buddy Benches at SD83 schools, and their guidelines include:

  • If you are looking for someone to play with or a friend, please sit on the Buddy Bench;
  • If you see someone sitting on the bench, talk to them and invite them to play;
  • If you are sitting on the bench and someone invites you to play, say “yes.”

Findlay said Pieper left an incredible legacy. Her warm smile, kindness, inclusive nature, and the way she valued friendship are all things Findlay remembers. “I had the pleasure of working with Anita at Len Wood Elementary in Armstrong many years ago, and she quickly became a friend who was like family,” said Findlay.

Thanks was given to all families involved in the project, as well as to Leko Precast for providing the concrete foundation needed to install the bench.

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