GULFPORT, Miss., Jan. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Shaggy's has teamed up with Gulfport Elementary School student Marissa Wingerter, to help her pursue her dream of giving kids an easier way to make friends. Marissa's idea was to have a designated sitting spot--a Buddy Bench--for classmates without buddies, as a way for them to be recognized by other students who have pledged to invite them to play.
"I feel sad that they don't have someone to play with, but happy that the bench is getting used and that other people will ask them to play," said Marissa, a fourth grader at Bayou View Elementary. "There's never been bullying at Bayou View, but if there ever was, it's definitely stopped by now."
Marissa was able to get a bench donated to Bayou View Elementary but did not want to stop there. She took her passion for more benches to the GoFundMe.com fundraiser site, where Shaggy's discovered her goals.
Shaggy's was able to build and donate the benches for the additional 6 Gulfport elementary schools. According to Khara Whitman, Shaggy's Director of Operations, "We're getting ready to open our new location in Gulfport and have been looking for a way to get involved in the community...this just seemed like a great fit. The bench brings kids together and we wanted to be a part of that."
"We put a base coat of paint on each bench and are going to leave it up to the students to decorate the Shaggy's Buddy Benches. We want them to have a real sense of ownership and pride in the benches," added Whitman.
All students will sign a "Shaggy's Buddy Bench" pledge, to be friendly to anyone they see sitting on the bench, and to help those newer, lesser known kids, become more popular and build their circle of friends.
"It's refreshing to see this kind of thoughtfulness in a time when selfies and cliques seem to rule," says Ron Ladner, Shaggy's Founder. "It's a noble, unselfish act for the students to come together to make sure everyone has a friend and the support of all."
Shaggy's will also be donating a bench to Hiller Park. "We helped raise the money for the new playground so it just seemed natural that if we were going to provide benches for the schools in Gulfport we had to have one at Hiller Park as well," said Whitman.
The Shaggy's Gulfport Beach is expected to open in the early spring and will also have its own buddy bench for guests.
About Shaggy's Restaurants. Shaggy's concept is open-air, family-friendly, waterfront restaurants, serving fresh gulf seafood dishes, burgers, sandwiches, cocktails, cold beer, wine and lots of fun. With over 200 employees, Shaggy's has four locations: Shaggy's Pass Harbor, Shaggy's Biloxi Beach, Shaggy's Gulfport Beach, and Shaggy's Pensacola Beach.
Shaggy's also strives to make a positive impact in the community. The Shaggy's Kids Foundation focuses on introducing children to fishing and marine life. Shaggy's was awarded the Governor's Cup for Community Service and Leadership; was recognized as the "Top Company Giver" by Beach Boulevard magazine; and most recently won the "GIVE" award for the top company in Mississippi displaying community excellence and volunteer work.
Ron Ladner, Founder/Owner
SOURCE Shaggy's Restaurants