With Planet Fitness® being known for its Judgement Free Zone®, it was no surprise when the company, in conjunction with STOMP Out Bullying™, launched a $1.3 million commitment to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in March to create the Judgement Free Generation™.
Franchisees Eric Dore and Shane McGuiness wanted to get involved in the community and help foster the Judgement Free Generation, so when Marketing Manager Anthony Roberts Jr. recommended implementing the buddy bench concept, the duo was on board.
Buddy benches can be found throughout the world and are designed to give children a place to go when they feel lonely. The idea is that if children see someone sitting on a buddy bench, they could go sit and talk to them or invite them to play.
“We believe that the buddy bench concept aligns perfectly with Planet Fitness’ anti-bullying initiative. It brings the Judgement Free Generation that’s exhibited in our clubs into the Boys & Girls Clubs locations where the bench is present,” said Dore. “It reinforces anti-bullying and pro-kindness and hopes to provide a place for inclusion, friendship and fun for these youth and young adults.”
Sunshine Fitness Management, which owns and manages 28 units, installed two buddy benches in early August just in time for the new school year. One is located at the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Universal Orlando Foundation branch, and the other is at the organization’s Tupperware Brands branch in Kissimmee.
“We chose these locations because we took a look at the two largest clubs in the area and decided those were the clubs that would have the largest impact on as many people as possible,” said Dore. “A playground can be a great or lonely place for a kid. With the bench being a permanent fixture at the Boys & Girls Clubs, we hope that it’s a constant reminder for youth to be kind to one another.”
Dore said that as the relationship between Sunshine Fitness Management and the local Boys & Girls Clubs continues to grow, more buddy benches will be implemented. In addition to installing the benches, Sunshine Fitness Management’s involvement includes hosting school supplies drives, sponsoring field days where employees volunteer at local clubs, and trainers offering fitness classes at clubs.
“Once the benches were installed, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and Planet Fitness conducted four workshops to help teach middle and high school children about bullying prevention, and we reached more than 500 students,” exclaimed Dore. “The workshops were designed to help the youth and young adults identify what bullying is and what they can do to help ‘stomp out’ bullying, as well as what the buddy bench is and how to use it. They went over really well, and we’re really pleased with working with our local Boys & Girls Clubs on this project.”