‘Tiny Girl, Big Dream’ hopes to end bullying with friendship benches

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. — A young girl originally from Colorado is back to share an important message about bullying.

Acacia Woodley, 13, presented what she calls a “friendship bench” to students at Cedar Ridge Elementary Thursday in Pueblo West.

The bench is intended to bring them together and stop bullying.

After she was bullied in fifth grade, Acacia came up with the idea and started her own company, “Tiny Girl, Big Dream” at just 10 years old.

Acacia’s benches are in schools across the nation and even in other countries.

Hundreds of them are already bringing students together, but Acacia’s dream is a whole lot bigger.

She came up with the friendship bench idea after she was bullied because of her disability.

“I discovered that she was going through a really hard time at home. So it occurred to me that it wasn’t just the people being bullied that needed help, it was also the bullies, and that everyone needed a place to go when they needed someone to talk to,” Acacia said.

And now kids across the nation do, with these friendship benches.

Each one is different from the other and created with recycled material.

“For some reason each piece of the bench was flawed or imperfect, and they come together to create this beautiful, beautiful bench. That’s my favorite story because each person I think is flawed or imperfect in their own ways and when we come together we create something beautiful which is the human race,” Acacia said.

And she has a big support group.

After hearing her speak a year ago, Mark Braun and his wife were moved by her message.

“We decided that she was someone we needed to help and so we purchased five of her friendship kits,” Braun said.

He distributed them to schools around his hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota, and today the area has over 35.

Now he’s hoping cities here in Colorado will catch on.

“It’s a fantastic program. It really, really helps children,” Braun said. “Her message is unbelievable and it works.”

“I truly believe that everyone should have somewhere to go and knowing that I can have so many people come together to get a bench in their school and to make their city just that much better, it really means a lot,” Acacia said.

Acacia said her big dream is to have one of her friendship benches in every school across the United States and Canada.

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