‘Buddy Bench’ memorializes former educator

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Gause Elementary dedicated its new "Buddy Bench" in honor of teacher Alisa Vail, who passed away in June of 2016, at a ceremony held March 29. Here, Vail's husband, Andy Vail, installs the plaque as Vail's mother, Lori Rasmussen, daughter Annabelle, sister Amee Rasmussen and daughter Abbie look on. (Contributed photo)

A new “Buddy Bench” at Gause Elementary School is honoring the memory of teacher Alisa Vail, who passed away last year.

The concept of a Buddy Bench is to provide a space for a student to go to when they need someone to play with at recess.

Dozens of friends, family and co-workers attended the bench dedication on March 29. Originally planned for December, the dedication had to be rescheduled due to snow.

Former Gause Principal Rex Larson and teachers Allison McGranahan and Sydney Termini spoke at the bench dedication.

Vail’s family — including her husband, Andy Vail; daughters, Annabelle and Abbie Vail; sister, Amee Rasmussen; and parents, Vic and Lori Rasmussen — worked together during the ceremony to mount a plaque to the bench.

The plaque is inscribed with Vail’s name and one of her favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person no matter how small.”

According to Ron Ager, Gause Booster president, Vail’s wish was to have swingsets installed on the playground, but with a lack of space and other roadblocks, those were not an option.

Instead, school leaders chose the Buddy Bench, to help remind people of Vail and her values.

“This will help people remember the kind of person she was,” McGranahan said. “The bench symbolizes the way that Alisa lived her life and the values she helped instill in her students: to be a friend to everyone and look for people who are being left out and include them.”

The Boosters used money earned from the Box Tops drive, as well as funds reserved from the school’s annual Sport-A-Thon, which pays for recess and playground items, to fund the new Buddy Bench.Washougal School District maintenance set up the bench and drilled the holes for the plaque.

Local businesses donated items such as coffee and treats for the reception that followed the March 29 bench dedication.