A 12-Year-Old Girl from Indiana launched a project to create more than 200 “Buddy Benches” in parks and playgrounds. She learned about buddy benches — a seat at a school playground where a lonely child may sit, signaling to other kids that they are in need of a friend at a summer bible camp and thought her school should have one. The seventh grader from Fort Wayne, Indiana said “I’ve been lonely myself. I don’t want others to feel that way.”
She spoke to her principal, shared the idea with the PTA, and then organized a community-wide event that collected 1,600 pounds of bottle caps, all recycled and repurposed to create three buddy benches at her elementary school. Sammie was able to collect enough caps for 3 benches in just 2 months time. She contacted area pharmacies, coffee shops, made announcements in school and asked just about anyone she talked to. The local ball team the Tincaps even made announcements at a few of their games.
They had enough caps leftover to help out other area schools wanting to get buddy benches at their schools after hearing about Sammie’s project. Called Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project, her efforts have since helped get over 200 benches fashioned from bottle caps and donated to schools and parks across the country and in Mexico and Australia. The benches are not only for schools but parks and other groups as well because EVERYONE needs a friend no matter your age.
She said “At the beginning of my project, I had absolutely no idea it would turn out anything like this. It amazes me and keeps me motivated to know that it is impacting people outside of the country as well.” Sammie has also recently published a book, Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference, about her efforts to inspire other kids to give back.
The second of four children — Sammie has an older brother, 14, a younger brother, 10 and sister, 8. She also spends her time producing a podcast from home called Sammie Smiles. She not only picks and then interviews guests via Zoom “who inspire me and who make me smile,” she says, but edits both the audio and video. Her Buddy Bench project continues to grow as more people are collecting caps and wanting to do this in their own community all over the country and world. She continues to help groups near and far start their own collection and talks and zooms with groups and schools about the importance of being kind. Her message to others is simple -You don’t have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid too and it’s good to be kind.— Sammie Vance