Brooke Elementary dedicates ‘Buddy Bench' in student's memory

Brooke Elementary in Royersford held a dedication for its new "Buddy Bench" in memory of student Julia Grace Eveland, who lost her battle with cancer in September. Photo courtesy of Janet Miller-Eveland
Brooke Elementary in Royersford held a dedication for its new "Buddy Bench" in memory of student Julia Grace Eveland, who lost her battle with cancer in September. Photo courtesy of Janet Miller-Eveland

Brooke Elementary School in Royersford held a ceremony Friday for a special little girl who attended the school.

Third grader Julia Grace Eveland believed in compassion, friendship, thoughtfulness and generosity, even when she was suffering from a diagnosis of stage three cancer.

On Friday, in Julia’s memory, the staff and students at Brooke Elementary dedicated a Brooke Buddy Bench to her, on the same day as Brooke Elementary’s Olympic Day.

The bench was placed on the school’s playground, so that students who don’t have anyone to play with can use the bench to make new friends.

“We knew we wanted to have some type of memorial to Julia. She had such an influence on so many of us here,” Sue Pronchik, Brooke School Counselor said. “Olympic Day was one of Julia’s favorite events, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate her life then.”

A few days after school started, Julia lost her battle with cancer and passed away on Sept. 5. The school raised enough money to purchase and maintain the butterfly Buddy Bench. It is painted in the colors that Julia loved, white, black, and lined in hot pink. Balloons, matching the colors of the bench, were released during the ceremony by her classmates.

“Julia created a list of 10 things to do when you’re feeling blue, and gave it to her mother just days before she passed away,” Pronchik said. “Each t-shirt the foundation sells has one of those items on it, so we’ll soon have a complete list among all the staff and teachers.” Mrs. Pronchik’s shirt reads, “Give someone a hug.”

Her parents started the Julia’s Grace Foundation, which funds events and activities for children undergoing treatment for cancer, or who are hospitalized with cancer so they can have the joyful family moments every child should experience. The foundation also funds childhood cancer research in hopes of finding a cure. The foundation website can be found at www.Juliasgracefoundation.org.

“The outpouring of love and support from the community has been wonderful, but when I think of Julia, it is not surprising,” said Janet Miller-Eveland, Julia’s Mother. “She was an amazing child, wise beyond her years. The bench will be there as a reminder to her friends and future students to always be kind, to think of others first and to be happy. That was Julia.”

The bench will be a reminder to all of Julia and her kind, giving spirit.

“The ceremony was beautiful, and could not have been more perfect,” Miller-Eveland said. “It was overcast, but the sun came out right as the bench was unveiled, and the balloons released.

“As you can imagine, it was an emotional day for us, but we couldn’t help but smile knowing that Julia’s love and generous spirit will live on. Julia made an impact on so many people, and we know her friends will carry on her lessons: to care about other people, to be kind, to smile at the simple things, to be happy and to not be afraid to give someone a hug.”