Friendship in action: Norway ‘Buddy Bench’ honors Stanchina

Pictured are members of the Kiwanis Aktion Club, along with relatives of the late Bryan Stanchina, at a dedication Friday of the new Buddy Bench at Norway Elementary School. The bench was built in memory of Stanchina who drowned in the Menominee River in June while coming to the aid of another swimmer. In back, from left, are John Moraska, Meg Taff, Sheena Bobnock, Steve LaRock, Renee Stanchina, Crystal Loesch, Gordon Loesch, Tabitha Stanchina, Chris Stanchina, Olivia Stanchina, Amber Stanchina, Valerie Stanchina, Kristi Allen, James Stanchina, Joe Stanchina, Rico Meneghini, Brad Annula, Brian Nord and Brad Reynolds. In front are Kelly Stanchina, Jonathan Ringle, Cara Stanchina and Barb Reisner. Theresa Proudfit/Daily News Photo

NORWAY — Bryan Stanchina “was a friend to everyone.”

Which is why the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Kiwanis Aktion Club decided to dedicate the new “Buddy Bench” at Norway-Vulcan school in honor of the teen, who drowned June 13 after going into the Menominee River while trying to help a struggling swimmer.

The group delivered the new bench Friday to Norway Elementary School, where family members and friends of the late 17-year-old had gathered. The bench has a special plaque with Stanchina’s name and class affiliation.

Renee Stanchina said her nephew, who would have been a senior this year, wasn’t just a friend to his Norway peers but had ties that extended through the region, including Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Hermansville and Florence, Wis.

“He was out there, reaching to others. I would like to get more kids to be mentoring, so when they go to sports, when they go to ‘voc-ed,’ they are mentoring these other kids who don’t have the parenting or don’t have the help. Continuing what Bryan did for others,” she said.

Aktion Club co-advisor Barb Reisner said she didn’t know Bryan Stanchina but by all reports he was a natural helper.

“He loved to help others. We want to donate this in memory of him. We want to connect kids to kids,” Reisner said. “What a perfect dedication to a wonderful human being.”

The Buddy Bench program is intended to provide a safe place for children to make friends. When a student notices another person on the Buddy Bench, it’s an invitation to make a connection and start talking.

The Aktion Club, a service and fellowship organization for adults who have health challenges, has raised fund for five Buddy Benches so far in the area.

The Willis Early Childhood Center in Kingsford, the Northern Lights YMCA and North Elementary School in Iron Mountain received the first three benches, with two more placed at Norway and Bishop Baraga schools this week.

Each bench comes with a special sign created by the leaders of the Aktion Club that explains the five steps to kindness that students can talk about when on the bench.

“Aktion Club members are all leaders who know first hand the impact that bullying has on children. They want to do everything they can to keep bullying out of schools” said John Estes, Aktion Club co-advisor. Other advisors include Laurie Caruso, Larry Lambert and Jonathan Ringel.

Reisner added, “All the training manuals we give out will have Bryan’s plaque on it. All of our resources will be in memory of Bryan.”

Theresa Proudfit can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 45, or