By JEN CARDINES
“We have always talked about how Thalberg is not the building. It’s the people in the building,” Principal Megan Bennett said during a recent school assembly. “We never forget [Ben.] He’s here.”
Adam Buckley and his mother, Cristin, weaved their way through the crowd toward the stage at Thalberg Elementary School’s auditorium, but the assembly was gathered to recognized the third person in the group.
It’s been three years since Ben Buckley, Adam’s twin brother, suffered a severe asthma attack that took his life, but he’s still very much a part of the school community.
Ben’s presence is still felt throughout the halls of the Southington elementary school and throughout the town, from murals decorating the Southington rail-trail to charity events, signs, and t-shirts that champion, “Ben was Here.”
Adam and his mother were at the assembly to present a $10,000 check to Ben’s former school. The donation came from the Ben Was Here organization, created to honor the life of Benjamin Buckley, who was a second grader at Thalberg at the time of his passing.
The purpose of Ben Was Here Inc. is to further the charitable interests of Ben, specifically including but not limited to support of the arts, educators, scholarships and community and youth organizations. The organization also raises and distributes funds for asthma-related medication and for research and treatment of asthma and other childhood illnesses.
The recent donation will enable Ben’s deep impact on the school community to continue for years to come.
“We wanted to do something so that every classroom would have Ben in it,” his mother said. “So even if he didn’t get to come here for his whole school career, he is all over the place. Ben will always be here.”
The donation will be used to purchase supplies that are not normally allocated in school budgets such as iPads, rugs for classrooms, and book bins, “so that all of the teachers can get the things they want and need for their classrooms,” Buckley said.
The school will even be sponsoring an elephant and supporting students to learn in another country.
“Because Ben was here, we are able to know that students can learn all over the world,” Bennett told the students.
Ben was Here Inc. has given grants all over Southington, extending into surrounding towns like Plainville and Wolcott. Bookshelves, high school scholarships, benches, and other monetary donations are just a few examples.
“They do things to make certain that Ben stays with us in our hearts and in our minds,” said Bennett.
The Buckley family also made it their mission to educate the community about the signs of asthma attacks and food allergies, as Ben suffered from both.
Every classroom has an informational poster, so teachers and staff know what to do if an emergency strikes.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.