‘We all love her, and we miss her dearly’


The placard on the Buddy Bench reads, “Your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure.  You are loved beyond words and missed beyond measure.” (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – On Saturday evening, friends and family of Tiffiney Crawford gathered with members of Mothers Helping Mothers (MHM), the support group for area moms that Crawford founded, to dedicate a “Buddy Bench” in her memory in the playground at Sportsman Lake Park. Crawford died suddenly on May 3, 2017 at the young age of 32.

The Buddy Bench program originated at an elementary school in Germany and was introduced to the U.S. by first-grader Christian Bucks at his school in Pennsylvania.  The bench is a place for kids who are alone and have no one to play with. Students are encouraged to go to any child they see sitting on the bench and invite them to play.

MHM Director Valerie Shields shared a little the official Buddy Bench definition along with her own feelings, telling The Tribune, “‘The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground,’ to help ‘spread the message of inclusion and kindness;’ and that’s what Tiffiney was all about.”

“She was amazing,” said Maggie Derrick, “never met a stranger, and was everybody’s best friend.”

Derrick continued, “With MHM and the friends from MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers, the precursor to MHM), we all got together and purchased the bench, and asked (Cullman County) Parks and Rec if we could donate it.  They installed it for us, and it’s perfect. It’s purple: she loved purple, her favorite color was purple. Her hair was often purple!”

In her address to the crowd during the dedication ceremony, Shields said of Crawford, “She wanted to eliminate loneliness.  She wanted to include everyone. She didn’t like cliques. You know, she wanted everyone to be part of her clique. If she was your friend, she made you feel like you were her best friend, every single one of you, complete strangers.

“We would go to play dates, and she would pick out somebody: ‘Oh, well she’s sitting by herself.  I’m going to go talk to her. I’m going to go tell her about MHM, and I’m going to be her best friend.’  And she sure would, she sure would. She never met a stranger. She could talk to anybody, anytime. It’s just who she was.

“We all love her, and we miss her dearly, and this is in her honor.  So now, it’s not just for the kids, y’all; every one of us have kids.  You want to come and sit on this bench? Talk to her; she’s listening!”

MHM today: bursting at the seams!

Shields defined MHM as “a support group to help bring mothers together, so no mother is ever alone in her journey through motherhood, because moms tend to feel alone a lot when they have children, and they feel kind of secluded.  And (Crawford) always wanted people to say, ‘Hey, come out and join us! You know, we’re not in middle school anymore. We can be friends, and we don’t have to act weird!’ And that’s what she was.”

MHM, which began as a small local support group with fewer than 10 members, has a current membership of 11,183 “and still growing!” according to Derrick.  That number, by the way, includes only mothers, not their entire families, meaning that the number of people who benefit from the group’s support and encouragement efforts is substantially higher.

For more on MHM, visit www.facebook.com/groups/momshelpingmomsal. For more on Buddy Benches, visit http://buddybench.org.

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