Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Brand new 'buddy bench' has home at Hallett

Pizza Factory CEO visits to unveil a 'Friends Are Awesome' bench


October 5, 2017

Paul Delaney

Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva made a special trip to Medical Lake and Hallett Elementary School to unveil an anti-bullying bench.

It's not often that the chief operating officer of a notable company has reason to visit Medical Lake.

But for Mary Jane Riva, CEO of Pizza Factory, Monday, Oct. 2 offered the perfect reason.

The company, which has one of its 110 franchises located in the town, used the day as the official kick off of the annual observance of an effort to eradicate bullying across the U.S. and the perfect opportunity to unveil a "buddy bench" at Hallett Elementary School.

"What we're doing this year is donating a Friends Are Awesome bench to schools in the communities where we have Pizza Factory's," Riva said.

It's the perfect way to show they care for the communities in which they operate because their culture is based around families and their children.

The tour will include all 110 stores, mainly in California, but locally Riva and marketing director Mary Kay Haas also did unveilings in Deer Park and Suncrest this past week.

"It's not just anti-bullying, it's kindness, and acceptance, especially right now," Riva said is the message they want to promote.

"When we go to schools and unveil these benches the kids faces light up and they know what this is for and you reach out to them you understand where they are coming from," Haas said. "We've all been there before."

Statistics show that 160,000 children in the United States miss school each day as a result of being bullied.

"Bullying is such a horrible thing," said Kristin Rodney, who along with husband Jason, own the Medical Lake location. "It's one of those things, we need to make it stop and if there's anything that can help bring awareness to the situation, I'm all for it."

Using the bench, students can feel good about themselves as well as helping students needing to make a friend or find someone to play with.

"People need to develop the skills of being aware of what other people are doing, how they are thinking and doing and that can be displayed in their actions," Hallett Principal Cindy McSmith said.

The school spends a lot of time teaching skills to deal with bullying, McSmith added, and the bench ought to be a visible means to put those skills into action.

"This is like a really super, supportive, kind of like an intervention for students to recognize others who may be struggling and to display some of those empathetic skills they are acquiring and reach out," McSmith said.

According to the website, every October, schools and organizations across the country join STOMP Out Bullying in observing National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal is to encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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