EDEN VALLEY - Instead of using her money for a retirement party, a longstanding Eden Valley-Watkins Elementary teacher left a lasting gift for future students.

Mary Huberty taught in the Eden Valley-Watkins area for the past 28 years. She retired this spring and wanted to leave a positive gift for the school.

Mary and her husband Mike bought a buddy bench for the elementary playground. The bench is a simple idea to help students make friends. If a child is feeling lonely or looking for someone to play with, they sit on the buddy bench and a child will approach them.

"Over the years I've seen so many kids who are walking around without friends or they are following me around recess telling me that they didn't have friends-so my husband and I decided this would be a great place to invest in kids future," Huberty says

The students were trained on how to properly use the buddy bench when it was first installed. Huberty says she was overjoyed to see students using it before she retired.

"I'd see someone sitting on the buddy bench and all of the sudden I'd see one or two kids going over there and asking that child to play and off they'd go. Everyone had such big smiles."

Huberty is looking forward to retirement and says she is overjoyed knowing the bench will help future students make friends.

"I have so many memories going into retirement and I'm going out with a happy heart-I'm really hoping the idea grows. I think once people hear about it, maybe more retired teachers will donate a bench to their school, " Huberty says.