Let's do lunch

Sue Shipley, right, waits for the crocodile to snap its jaws during a lunchtime game of Crocodile Dentist. Her lunch buddy Abby looks on.  - Photo by Sean Janssen
Sue Shipley, right, waits for the crocodile to snap its jaws during a lunchtime game of Crocodile Dentist. Her lunch buddy Abby looks on.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Janssen

Each Wednesday, a couple dozen Naval Avenue Elementary students eat lunch with their “buddies.”

These buddies aren’t quite like their classmates, but community members who give the children the chance to bond with an adult who shares an interest in them, spending quality time some students aren’t always able to get at home.

Some students in the “Lunch Buddies” program do have difficulties outside of school, according to principal Gail Sackman, while others “just really wanted to have a lunch buddy because they’re fun.”

For Sue Shipley, retired principal of View Ridge Elementary School, the program is a chance to have some of that fun, without some of the less fun aspects that can come along with being an administrator.

“I just love it. It’s pure joy,” Shipley said. “No work to it. No discipline. It’s just Abby and me every week. It’s always the best hour of my week every week.”

The idea came from interventionist Cheryl Gillespie. She got the program started several years and worked on it with Shipley while at View Ridge before bringing it to Naval Avenue two years ago.

“It’s always been a real winner with the kids and they love it,” Shipley said. “It’s such an easy thing for (volunteers) to do, too.”

Abby, 7, the lunch buddy for Shipley, has a particular thing about the program that she enjoys.

“My favorite part is her (Shipley). We like to play games,” Abby said.

Well, really, it’s just the one game.

“Crocodile Dentist,” she said. “I love it. It’s the only game I want to play. And I always win.”

Laura, also 7, echoed the sentiment about her lunch buddy.

“I really like my lunch buddy. She’s nice and she’s kind,” she said. “We play games like Crocodile Dentist.”

In the case of Laura and her buddy, Shirley Rogers, the game is a favorite but not an exclusive favorite.

“We play dolls a lot and that’s fun for me because I haven’t done it in years,” Rogers said.

Rogers has been a lunch buddy since it first started.

“I really enjoy it. I’ve met some really great kids including Laura,” she said. “Cheryl does a really great job of matching up the kids with (buddies) and I think that really helps make it work.”

Gillespie said after lunch, buddies do a variety of activities including board games, making art, playing “house,” and sometimes celebrating a birthday.

“We’re doing an ‘un-birthday’ for everyone soon. It makes sure no one is left out,” she said. “It’s really pretty magical for kids. It’s also nice for the community to be able to come in and see the good things going on in schools.”

Other games buddies found to play this week included pick-up sticks, puzzlemaking, bingo and chess.

“Chess is great,” said Doug, 10. “I came in second place in the chess tournament for the whole school.”

Buddies include many folks from around the district.

“I love it because I have no grandkids,” said superintendent Bette Hyde. “(Board member) Vicki Collins has been doing this a long time. (Former assistant superintendent Roy) Okamoto did this and also, of course, (school resource officer John) Bogen.

The kids love seeing him with the uniform.”

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