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Pair of 7-year-old former students remembered with ‘Buddy Benches’ at new BCES playground
buddy bench dedication
Bryan County Elementary School Principal Allison Holcombe, center, behind bow, dedicated a new playground to current and future students during a ribbon cutting ceremony held Friday morning.

During a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday on Bryan County Elementary School playground, BCES Principal Alison Holcombe thanked the school board for its part in making a new playground a reality and noted the importance of play for young minds and bodies and spirits.

She then quoted the late Fred Rogers, the iconic host of the longtime PBS series, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“In the words of Mr. Rogers,” Holcombe said. “’For children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.’” 

And then Holcombe remembered a pair of children who lost their lives to illness in 2020, Kyleigh Mills Lindsey and Danny Wade Arthur, who “with their sweet and bubbly spirit, vivacious love of learning something new and a contagious smile they could always light up a room.

“Their lives created an indelible footprint on everyone here at BCES,” Holcombe said.

She then dedicated a pair of brightly colored buddy benches to the two children.

“We wanted to honor them and what better place than right here on the new playground where they would run and laugh and play if they could,” Holcombe said.


The benches speak volumes. One is purple and has a pair of unicorns. It’s Kyleigh’s bench.

“Kyleigh’s favorite color was purple and her most favorite things were unicorns,” said Dr. Eileen Emerson, former principal at Lanier Primary, which closed in 2021. “We had Kyleigh’s purple bench inscribed with a ‘A Life that Touches Others Goes on Forever’ because Kyleigh was the kindest, friendliest, and sweetest little girl you could meet. She made a positive impression on everyone who met her.”

The other is a rainbow of colors, red and orange and yellow and blue and so on. It’s Danny’s bench. It has clocks on it.

“Danny had a very bright and playful personality,” Emerson said. “He was always very happy and smiling. Danny loved a lot of different things, but his absolute favorite were clocks.”

His bench is inscribed with “’Always Make Time for a Friend’ because Danny loved to make time to play and spend time with all his classmates,” Emerson said.

Holcombe planted a pair of red crepe myrtles alongside the benches.

They were donated by the BCES student council.


The Arthur family, which includes Danny’s parents Derrick and Sherry, his sister Maya, and grandparents Jesse France and the late Brenda France, released a written statement after the ceremony.

It said, in part, “the love and personal dedication the teachers and staff have for our children is above reproach. We have witnessed that care and dedication every time we were at the school from the time they were at Lanier Primary School on into the time they moved to the new location in the city limits.”

It continued: “The children see and feel that love and care.

We felt it as the parents.

When Danny was alive and in school he had the best that any school could offer no matter how big it might have been. He would come home and talk about how much he liked his teachers. They devoted themselves to understanding Danny and his special needs. Danny suffered from Muscular Dystrophy (Duchenne Type).

This disease destroys your muscles and you have a very limited life span when born with the disease.

Knowing this only gave his teachers and staff more inspiration to work harder with Danny.”

The Arthur’s statement continued: “The two families were treated like royalty today at this ceremony. We were informed the young students participated in a fund raiser selling candy to raise money for the beautiful benches and surrounding park. They raised in excess of $1,800 and donated it to the playground park. We expected to see a small concrete bench with a name plaque on it which would have been wonderful. But instead, we are presented with these beautiful rainbow colored benches that had special designed plaques that were personally engraved with a unique symbol of the child. The young lady had little unicorns on her plaque and Danny had clocks. He was fascinated with clocks and it was his favorite thing to play with and take apart and put back together. The school staff knew this because they know their students.

They take that kind of time and interest in their children they care for. The Pembroke, North Bryan County community are truly blessed to have this school family to teach and care for their children. This park will be there on into the future to represent our two children this community lost but also a beautiful, loving school staff who truly cares.” 


The second paragraph of Kyleigh’s obituary from January 2020 said that she was born August 23, 2012 in Asheville, North Carolina to Wendy Lightfoot Lindsey and Kyle Lindsey.

“She has lived the last 3 ½ years with her Aunt Gail Lightfoot Perry, her Uncle Eddie Perry and her “brother-cousins” Ethan, Jack and Aidan Perry.

Kyleigh was also blessed to gain a “sister-cousin” when Ethan married Bailey Davis Perry.”

She was a “proud second grader at Lanier Primary in Mrs. McIntosh’s class.”

Gail Perry is bookkeeper at Bryan County Elementary. She wrote the following for the BCN.

“Kyleigh came to live with me and my children when she was 4 years old. She blended in perfectly with our family. She started at Bryan County Schools in kindergarten and was in Mrs. McIntosh’s 2nd grade class at LPS when she became sick over the Christmas break,” Perry said. “She never met a stranger and was the most outgoing little one I have ever witnessed. Everyone was a friend. Everyone knew Kyleigh was in the building when they heard her little, but loud, raspy voice. She loved to fish, go to the beach, and hunt with her cousins. Half the time Kyleigh was doing all of it in a princess dress. Having the bench dedicated to her memory at a place that she loved and was loved is a beautiful reminder of how many lives that she touched. It is especially nice, being the bookkeeper at BCES, that I can go out to the new playground, sit on the bench to be close to her and remember the wonderful times we had and that she had with her friends who are now in the 5th grade at BCES.”

Shortly afterward, Perry sent another email.

“Could you add Kyleigh loved attending Bryan County High School football games to watch her cousin play and to also see her friends on Friday nights,” Perry wrote. “She was also very active in her Sunday school class at Bible Baptist Church.

And that we miss her every day.”


 During her remarks, Holcombe reminded those at the ceremony that, “our students always have a place in our hearts.

We don’t just call them our students for a day, a month, a year, or five years. They are always ours.”

She then dedicated the playground to the school’s students, current and currents.

After the ribbon cutting, as adults gathered in groups to talk or remember, the students, many classmates of Danny and Kyleigh, began to play.

Danny Arthur
Danny Arthur
Kyleigh Mills
Kyleigh Lindsey
Kyleigh's Buddy Bench
Kyleigh's Buddy Bench
Danny's Buddy Bench
Danny's Buddy Bench
buddy benches 1
Bryan County Elementary School students on the new playground equipment. The school is getting new equipment to help keep up with its doubled population after the closing of Lanier Primary in 2021, according to former principal Dr. Jeff Hodges. Jeff Whitten photo.
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