WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Sarah-Katherine Cantrell loves to sit on her Buddy Bench on the playground at Springdale Elementary and make new friends.
Tuesday morning, she made a new -- and unexpected -- friend on that very bench: Orlando “El Gato” Melendez, a 6’8” forward on the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.
“He’s probably the tallest friend I have,” Sarah-Katherine said, glancing at Melendez, “and probably the tallest person I’ve ever seen.”
Melendez, who will play with the Harlem Globetrotters Friday at Colonial Life Arena, wanted to meet Sarah-Katherine and hear about her Buddy Bench project, which is placing benches on the playgrounds of all Lexington Two elementary schools. The benches are a place where students can sit and signal others that they’re looking for someone to talk with or play with.
Melendez surprised the fifth-grader with his visit, approaching her as she was sitting on the bench.
“Can I be your buddy?” said Melendez, basketball in hand. “Do you want to be my buddy, too?”
The visit was part of the Globetrotters’ outreach to young people, which includes visits to schools to talk about the need for everyone to work together, to be kind to each other -- and, like Sarah-Katherine’s project, to make a positive difference.
She even learned a few of the tricks Melendez will share with fans during Friday’s show, too. Sarah-Katherine will be there, too.
Video: Click link below to watch one of the basketball tricks she learned.