Riverside East receives Bailey Kelems Buddy Bench

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Cpl. John Shipman (left) presents a buddy bench in honor of Bailey Kelems to Riverside East. Pictured with Cpl. Shipman are Hannah Bryan, fifth grade student and cousin of Bailey; and Caraway Officer Shannon Kelems, Bailey's dad.

Students and staff at Riverside East Elementary gathered to accept a buddy bench in honor of their classmate Bailey Kelems.

Cpl. John Shipman with the Jonesboro Police Department, organizer of Back the Blue, was in Caraway to make the presentation.

Principal Brandi Wallace explained the buddy bench concept. The buddy bench will be placed on the playground and if a student doesn't feel they have anyone to play with, they can go to the bench and hopefully, other students will take notice and invite invite them to play with them.

Sixth grade classmates at Riverside East held a balloon release in honor of Bailey Kelems.

"If you need a friend you can sit on the bench and then others can be a friend," Wallace said.

Cpl. Shipman talked briefly to the students calling it his honor to bring the buddy bench to encourage friendship.

"You can makes friends for a lifetime," he said. "This is also in honor of Bailey Kelems."

Students had made posters in honor of Bailey.

"I want you to think about Bailey every day," Cpl. Shipman said. "She is an inspiration to me. She is a fighter."

Several of Bailey's family members including her dad, grandmother, cousins and uncles were on hand for the presentation.

Bailey is the daughter of Shannon and Susan Kelems. Mr. Kelems is a police officer with the Caraway Police Department.

Bailey, a sixth grade student at Riverside East, is a patient at St. Jude.

Her journey started in April 2015 with a liver transplant. She was in and out of the hospital from May through July. She went into rejection in October. She now has cancer and is at St. Jude.

"She is a fighter," her dad said.

Cpl. Shipman said he hopes they wear out the buddy bench and he has to bring another one.

The benches are constructed thanks to volunteers who donate material and labor.

"They have been well received," Cpl. Shipman said.

The buddy bench is one of the projects supported through Back The Blue. It has helped a lot of people through the proceeds from fund raising activities.

The sixth grade class held a balloon release in honor of Bailey.

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