Indiana 12-year-old builds friendships with ‘Buddy Bench’ donations

A 12-year-old girl from Fort Wayne, Indiana named Sammie Vance has been spreading kindness through her “Buddy Bench” project. Sammie was inspired by the idea of a “Buddy Bench” after attending a summer Bible camp when she was eight.

She wanted to create a seat at school playgrounds where lonely children could sit and let others know that they were in need of a friend.

“It’s nerve-wracking to go up to someone and ask them to play,” Sammie said. “When you sit on the Buddy Bench, it’s easy to notice that someone is sitting there. When other people know what it’s used for, it’s easier because you know that someone is going to come and play with you.”

Sammie shared her idea with her principal and the PTA, and they organized a community-wide event that collected 1,600 pounds of bottle caps, which were recycled to make three buddy benches at her elementary school.

The project has since expanded, and over 200 benches made from bottle caps have been donated to schools and parks in countries like Mexico and Australia.

Sammie’s mom, Heidi Vance, said, “She’s always had a really big heart, and not wanting anybody to be left out.” Sammie has also written a book called “Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference” and produces a podcast called “Sammie Smiles,” where she interviews guests who inspire her.

“Bullying and loneliness is a really big deal and it needs to be changed,” Sammie said. “Now that a lot of people are aware of it, they’ll want to make a difference.”